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What Should I Expect from a Court Clinic Evaluation?

The goal of Court Clinic is the best interests of the child in often difficult child custody dispute situations.

A divorce with child custody issues can be very stressful and expensive to undertake. Fortunately, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Second Judicial District Court offers a child custody evaluation service, known as the Court Clinic. The Court Clinic is staffed by social workers, psychologists and family therapists whose sole interest is in promoting the best interests of the children whose families are before the family court in domestic relations matters.

The Court Clinic child custody evaluation is not a quick process.  The Court Clinic is fairly backed up most of the time.  The process typically takes a couple of months.  There is not much to do increase the pace.  Once the case is with Court Clinic, it is in their hands for the most part.  The judge will not typically intervene.

Not only does the Court not typically interfere with the process, the Courts usually follow the Clinic recommendations so it is important to put your best foot forward.   An experienced child custody attorney can help.

Court Clinic Advisory Consultation

The first step upon referral to Court Clinic is an assessment.

Once the family court judge issues an order referring the child custody evaluation to the Court Clinic, an initial assessment is scheduled which includes interviews with the parents and the children. The assessment is the first step an the advisory consultation, which may include interviews and observed interactions between the children and the parents.

An advisory consultation may take up to six months to complete and usually culminates in a child custody recommendation for the court. Once the evaluation is completed, the family court will set a child custody hearing for the court clinician to report back the findings to the court.

Best Interests of the Child(ren) is the Legal Standard for Any New Mexico Custody Case and Evaluation

The Court Clinician has great latitude in recommendations with the goal of the bests interests of the child(ren).

During the child custody hearing, the court clinician will be required to testify as to their findings and will make recommendations to the court as to what would be in the best interests of the children. A court clinician has substantial latitude in the recommendations that can be made to the court, all in an effort to ensure the best interests of the child(ren) are met.

Aside from making child custody recommendations, the court clinician can recommend supervised or unsupervised visits, parenting classes, anger management classes, and even random drug testing for the parents. In more amicable cases, the court clinic may even mediate a child custody agreement between the parents.

Counseling for Children and Parents May be Required

Time-sharing may be gradually implemented and conditioned upon progress with the child and the parents.

The court clinician can also recommend counseling for the children, or even stepped interactions with the absent parent so that the child can be reintegrated into any new recommended visitation schedule. Stepped interactions can include a few supervised visits, followed by unsupervised visits until the child reintegrates and gets comfortable with the family’s new situation.

The Court Clinic may also suggest counseling for one or both of the parents.  The counseling may be a condition of visitation or time-sharing with time-sharing stepped up as counseling progresses.

Priority Consultation May be Ordered When Safety of Children at Issue

In situations where abuse of the child(ren) is alleged or the safety of the children is otherwise at issue, the family court can order an immediate priority consultation with an on-call clinician. When a child may be in danger and time is of the essence, the family court can order a priority consultation to be conducted by the court clinic within days of the court order.

The normal Court Clinic Process can take months.  A priority consultation is faster due to the urgency.  The report back hearing will usually be completed within weeks and not months like in the advisory consultation.

Consult an Attorney Experienced in Family Law

It is very important to understand what your rights are when the court clinic conducts a child custody evaluation and makes a recommendation to the family court. In many instances, the court clinician may make recommendations that do not suit your family. An experienced family law attorney can guide you and help you if the clinician’s recommendation does not suit your family’s needs and you want to take further action to counter an unsatisfactory recommendation.

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