When divorcing parents aren't able to agree on what will happen in regards to the custody of their children, the issue of child custody will generally be decided through court proceedings. There are many different things such proceedings can involve here in New York.
Sometimes, in child custody proceedings, a New York court will decide to bring in a social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist to conduct an investigation of the family the case involves. The professional that the court selects to conduct such an investigation is referred to as a forensic evaluator.
A forensic evaluator's investigation can involve many things. Generally, in such investigations, the evaluator will have interviews/discussions with the parents and the children the custody case involves. Also, if the family has worked with any mental professionals in the past, the evaluator will likely speak with them. Psychological tests are another tool that evaluators will sometimes utilize in their investigations.
What findings a forensic evaluator makes as a result of their investigation can be very impactful. Upon finishing their investigation, the evaluator makes up a report containing their conclusions/recommendations and submits it to the court. Also, the evaluator may end up being asked to provide testimony in the child custody case. Thus, a forensic evaluator's findings and recommendations have the potential to significantly influence what child custody decision a court ultimately makes.
As this underscores, there are many different things that can contribute to what decision is ultimately made in a New York child custody case. Attorneys can help answer questions parents who are in child custody proceedings here in New York have about forensic evaluators and other things that such proceedings can involve.
Source: New York State Unified Court System, “Frequently Asked Questions – Child Custody/Visitation,” Accessed Oct. 15, 2014