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Third-Party Evaluations in Divorce

Divorce cases understandably involve perspectives from two different sides of the situation.  In an effort to reach a fair and equitable dissolution of the marriage, especially when it comes to matters involving children, the court may require third-party evaluations.  The cost of the evaluations is the responsibility of the individuals, not the court.

Third-party evaluations are performed by experts.  These experts are assumed to offer neutral findings based on interviews and other types of analysis.  These can include:

  • Psychological evaluations
  • Custodial evaluations
  • Parenting Coordinators
  • Counselors
  • Therapeutic Parenting Counselors
  • Guardians ad Litem

Judges typically places a high-level of deference to the final reports.  They can have a significant impact on the way a judge rules on various issues.  The parties can still voice their opinions on how they think the findings of the third-party evaluations should be applied, but the judge makes the final decisions and determinations.

Experienced attorneys understand the importance of carefully reviewing the reports, before they are presented to the court and entered into the proceedings.  There may be an opportunity to question the expert and to seek to bolster or even minimize the impact of the findings.

Not every case will require third-party evaluations.  Some of the less complex cases (such as an uncontested divorce) may be resolved based on agreements reached by the two parties.  Another example might include a divorce without minor-aged children.

In divorces involving high-asset parties with complex investment portfolios, or a family-owned business, the attorneys might recommend the involvement of a financial expert to perform forensic accounting and business valuations.  Again, the judge will use the findings to help determine support levels, asset division and other issues.

While the involvement of third-party evaluators can add substantial cost to the divorce, their findings often add clarity to sensitive and/or complex situations.