Custody Evaluation

Overview

If you and your child’s other parent are unable to reach agreement about custody and parenting time with the child, the Court may require you to engage in a Custody Evaluation to help the Court decide custody and parenting time.

A parent’s opinion on what custody or parenting time arrangement is best for the child or children may or may not be consistent with the law. Generally, there are multiple ways to serve the child’s best interests and provide for the child’s needs. Two parents may have completely different opinions about what is in the child’s best interests. This presents a difficult situation for the Court.

Custody evaluations are performed by a neutral evaluator who has been appointed by the Court to conduct an independent investigation, and to make recommendations based on the “Best Interest Factors” set forth in Minn. Stat. §518.17

Reference Materials

Release of Information
HIPAA Release of Information
Model Order & Stipulation to Appoint Neutral Custody/Parenting Time Evaluator

Custody Evaluation Frequently Asked Questions

What does a Custody Evaluator do?

A Custody Evaluator learns about you, your child or children and your unique circumstances and needs. After a thorough investigation, the custody evaluator makes verbal and/or written recommendations based on the best interests of your child as defined by Minnesota law.

A Custody Evaluator’s recommendations are not legally binding; however, the Court often relies heavily on recommendations. This is why most cases settle after the Custody Evaluator’s recommendations are received.

Who Hires a Custody Evaluator?

A Custody Evaluator is selected by the parties (and their attorneys) and appointed by Court Order.

What are the steps of a Custody Evaluation?

Ms. Lallemont’s Custody Evaluation services are broken into three billable phases.

  1. Investigation: This phase includes:
    • interviews with each parent;
    • interviews with children of sufficient age;
    • home visits to observe the child(ren) with each parent;
    • interviews of collateral references who have direct knowledge of the family’s situation (e.g., children’s teachers and school specialists, daycare providers, primary care providers, mental health providers who work with children and/or parents);
    • interviews of personal references who have direct knowledge of the family’s situation (e.g., close friends or family members);
    • review of relevant documents (e.g., family court file, school records, criminal history records)
    • In some cases, parents and/or children may be asked to complete additional evaluations or assessments.
    • The investigation phase ends with verbal recommendations presented to the attorneys (or to the parties if they are self-represented).
  2. Written Report: If the parties are unable to reach agreement after Ms. Lallemont verbally presents her recommendations, either party may request a written report for submission to the court.
  3. Testimony: If the case goes to trial and Ms. Lallemont’s testimony is needed, either party may subpoena Ms. Lallemont to appear in court to testify about the recommendations in her report.

Because of the amount of information that must be gathered and analyzed, Custody Evaluations typically take 90-120 days. The cost for evaluations varies, depending on the complexity of the issues involved, and whether a report or testimony at trial or deposition is necessary. Ms. Lallemont requires a conference call with attorneys for both clients to discuss the estimated cost of a particular case.

What information is included in the Custody/Parenting Time Evaluation Contract?

The Custody/Parenting Time Evaluation Contract contains the following information:

  1. Fees: I understand that the Custody/Parenting Time Evaluation will occur in three phases, as described below. Ms. Lallemont’s fee for Custody/Parenting Time Evaluation is $200 per hour, which includes time spent interviewing, reading and reviewing files and other documents, correspondence, report preparation, consultation with other professionals (including attorneys), all phone conversations, home visits, court preparation, and any other time expended in direct association with the evaluation. Parents will be responsible for fees in each phase.
    • Phase I – Investigation and Feedback: The investigation requires payment of a retainer fee. This retainer fee will apply to the time spent by Ms. Lallemont’s investigation, including a feedback session with the attorneys. It has been explained to me that the retainer will be placed into a trust account for clients. The funds placed in the trust account continue to belong to me until payment is earned for the services Ms. Lallemont provides. I will receive a monthly statement describing the services provided and Ms. Lallemont will withdraw the funds for the earned fees on the date the statement is sent to me. If the initial retainer has been exhausted by services rendered, each parent will pay his/her percentage of any additional retainer(s) necessary. At the conclusion of Phase I, Ms. Lallemont will promptly refund any portion of the retainer that has not been earned in proportion to each parent’s contribution percentage.
    • Phase II – Report Writing: In the event Ms. Lallemont is required to draft a report of her investigation and recommendations, she will require payment of an additional non-refundable flat fee of $5,000.00 (Five Thousand Dollars). The report must be requested no more than 60 days after the feedback session with the attorneys. Ms. Lallemont will not begin drafting the report until she has received payment in full. A minimum of two weeks is required for drafting. I understand that a final report (verbal or written) and recommendations will not be prepared or released until all fees have been paid in full, including the cost of preparing the written report.
    • Phase III – Testimony: In the event Ms. Lallemont is required to testify, either in a deposition or at trial, evidentiary hearing, or other court proceeding, she will require an additional non-refundable flat fee of $2,400.00 (Two Thousand Four Hundred Dollars). This fee will cover preparation time, travel time*, and one day of testimony. Additional time, in excess of one day of testimony, will be billed at the rate of $200.00/hour. To ensure Ms. Lallemont’s availability, the subpoena and payment in full for $2,400.00 (Two Thousand Four Hundred Dollars) must arrive at Ms. Lallemont’s office no later than ten (10) full business days prior to the court date. Cancellation of the court appearance within five (5) days of the hearing will result in forfeiture of the deposit. *for travel outside of Wabasha, Winona, Houston, Fillmore or Olmsted counties refer to Paragraph 2.
  2. Travel Expenses: In the event Ms. Lallemont must travel in connection with this evaluation, time spent to travel is billed at Ms. Lallemont’s hourly rate of $200.00 per hour. Parents must also pay all related travel expenses (e.g. flight, hotel, or car). Ms. Lallemont will provide a good-faith estimate of costs prior to booking travel, and parents will pay their respective share of the fees before travel occurs. Ms. Lallemont will provide receipts of travel expenses upon request. Parents will be responsible for travel related fees
  3. Interviews: Interviews will be conducted with both parents and with the children. New spouses and/or significant others will also be interviewed as part of this process. Interviews may take place at Ms. Lallemont’s office, and may also include home visits. Ms. Lallemont will also contact collateral sources as necessary (in her discretion). I agree to sign Release of Information forms as needed to allow collateral sources to share information with Ms. Lallemont.
  4. Collateral Information: I understand I will be asked to identify collateral resources who might have useful insights regarding parents and children. Examples include, but are not limited to: daycare providers, teachers, coaches, counselors, health care providers, law enforcement agencies, and social service agencies.
  5. Psychological Testing: I understand I may be asked to complete a psychological evaluation and/or parenting assessment as part of this process. In that event, Ms. Lallemont will help identify a mental health provider for these services. It is imperative that both parents are evaluated by the same mental health provider. PLEASE NOTE THAT YOU WILL BE RESPONSIBLE FOR CONTRACTING SEPARATELY WITH MENTAL HEALTH PROVIDERS. Fees associated with psychological testing are NOT included in the retainer fee.
  6. Report/Review of Findings: The goal of a custody/parenting time evaluation is to provide impressions, observations, and recommendations from an objective, professional resource as to the best interests of the children involved. It is hoped that these recommendations will serve as a basis for settlement negotiations between the parties and/or attorneys.
    • Upon completion of interviews and collection of data, both attorneys will be contacted to meet with Ms. Lallemont and discuss preliminary recommendations. Attorneys will be given the opportunity to ask questions, and will be asked to review the recommendations with you following the meeting.
    • If both attorneys and both parents are in agreement that further negotiations may be helpful, Ms. Lallemont will make herself available for up to one hour at a facilitated settlement meeting. Ms. Lallemont will present her information to parents, their counsel, and the facilitator, and answer questions. If parents wish to engage in further settlement negotiations, Ms. Lallemont will leave the process, and the facilitator will continue to assist parents in their settlement efforts. Parents must contract separately with the facilitator. Ms. Lallemont will provide a list of providers upon request.
    • If settlement is not achieved through verbal report and subsequent negotiations, the parties may contract for a written report (Phase II). The written report will include findings, recommendations, and the basis for all recommendations. Copies of the report will be provided to both attorneys.
    • The report must be requested within 60 days of the feedback session. If requested after this time, additional fees will apply to allow Ms. Lallemont to update any information. Additional fees will be negotiated at the time of the request for the report.
    • MS. LALLEMONT WILL NOT HAVE FURTHER CONTACT WITH EITHER PARTY INDIVIDUALLY AFTER THE REPORT HAS BEEN COMPLETED.
  7. Original Documents/Fees for Copying: I understand that any documents or other materials supplied to Ms. Lallemont will become part of her file, and will not be returned to me. Accordingly, I understand that I am responsible for providing her with copies rather than original documents. In the event that I require Ms. Lallemont to return information to me from her file, I understand that I will be required to pay copying fees of $1.00 per page, which will be billed against the retainer fee. Finally, I understand that fees must be paid in full before Ms. Lallemont provides copies to me.
  8. No Representation: I understand that Ms. Lallemont is a neutral, retained to conduct an evaluation. Although she is an attorney, I understand Ms. Lallemont does not represent either of us, and that she is not providing legal advice or other legal services to either of us during the evaluation. If I have legal questions, I understand they should be directed to my attorney.

Why Hire Angela Lallemont for Your Next Custody Evaluation?

10+ years of family law experience
Certificate in Trauma Informed Advocacy from Mitchell Hamline Law School
Rule 114 Qualified Neutral in Mediation, SENE and FENE
Completion of Custody Evaluation Training through Minnesota Mediation Center
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