Going through a child custody evaluation and want to know more about the process? In a recent episode of Family Law: Jersey Style, Bari Weinberger sat down with New Jersey child custody evaluation expert, Dr. Edwin A. Rosenberg, to discuss child custody evaluation basics and what you can expect.
Watch the full interview or read the transcript below.
Bari Weinberger: Welcome back to Family Law: Jersey Style. We’re here now with Edwin Rosenberg, a child custody and family law evaluations expert in the state of New Jersey, with offices in Summit but you go statewide as we know, of course.
Edwin Rosenberg: I do.
Bari Weinberger: And we practitioners have utilized you in every which capacity and genuinely appreciate you being here today to answer some very valuable questions for our viewers.
Edwin Rosenberg: Well, I’m happy to be here.
Bari Weinberger: Thank you! So first, let’s tell the viewers what makes a custody evaluation expert a custody evaluation expert?
Edwin Rosenberg: Well, it takes a lot of training because, just because one is a good clinical psychologist doesn’t mean one really knows what to do in a forensic case. Forensic situations are very different because in addition to having to know about psychology and personality and family relationships, you also have to know about the law, so the evaluation is of people but in the context of the legal process that is being considered. So in order to do a child custody evaluation, it’s important to know the custody standards, the best interests standards.
Bari Weinberger: What in fact do judges look for? When their reading a report, is there something specifically from case to case that they’re looking to examine or have you provide?
Edwin Rosenberg: Well, I mean every case in family law is very fact sensitive. So the facts are very important. The facts should not be confused or confusing. They should be accurate. That’s very important for the court as well as for the attorneys, obviously. And, the difference between what expert A might recommend, expert B might recommend has to do with how much these experts weigh the importance of these facts.
Bari Weinberger: What should a party – a parent – know when they’re coming to see you for the first time? How should they be prepared?
Edwin Rosenberg: Well, I tell people that it’s a very, a very tense situation for them, obviously. The people are very invested emotionally in their children and they’re afraid they’re going to “lose” their children. I think that’s one of the most widely held misconceptions that people are going to lose their children. I tell parents the very first day that if I have any bias at all in doing these child custody evaluations is that I’ve strongly believe children need both their parents in their lives. So it’s very rare, hardly ever I can’t remember many cases where I’ve ever excluded a parent from being involved in a child’s life.
Bari Weinberger: Do you actually meet with the children during this type of process?
Edwin Rosenberg: Okay. Well, let me tell you how I conduct mine and I want to say right off that this is the way I do it. Not everyone does it the same way. But my evaluation for a child custody evaluation consist of an in depth evaluation of each of the parents which includes interviews and psychological testing. I will meet with the children, each parent will have an opportunity to bring the children to me and I’ll spend time with each of the children individually. I also will observe each parent with the children together in an observational session. I will also investigate or interview each parent with regards to parenting issues. In the last five, ten years I also make home visits. Yeah, I found that children, but especially young children, respond so much better to me in their home than they do in my office. I don’t restrict parents from inviting anybody they want to, to give me information.
Bari Weinberger: So, in that regard, I know a lot of clients come to see me and they want their family members to weigh in on the situation. Do you find the family members are generally biased toward their particular family member and maybe it lessens the value of their input?
Edwin Rosenberg: Well, of course they are, I mean most family members are supportive of their family member that’s going through a custody dispute. So I certainly don’t weigh what they tell me with the same amount of, give it the same weight that I would give a pediatrician or stranger. But I also am very sensitive to the idea that if I tell the parent “I don’t want to speak to those people” the parents going to feel really upset that I didn’t give them the opportunity to tell me exactly what they wanted to tell me and I’m giving them short shrift and they are going to be kind of angry of me at the end of the process if they don’t get what they want.
Bari Weinberger: When you meet with the parents first for instance and then you conduct the psychological evaluations of the parents – before even meeting the children, do you tend to have some sort of initial anticipation of how things are going to go based upon what you’ve learned so far?
Edwin Rosenberg: Well, I don’t have an anticipation of how they are as parents because I haven’t seen that in action yet. But, before I see any of the children I have at least one interview with each of the parents and I conduct psychological testing with each of the parents. So, I have that kind of in my backpack as it were, and so I have a sense of who these people are psychologically.
Bari Weinberger: How about removal situations? You have one parent who for whatever purpose, the economy needs to transfer jobs out of state or otherwise, and the other parent naturally objects to that, do you see that on the uptake …on the rise?
Edwin Rosenberg: Well, it’s been, yes it’s been on the uptake or rise as you say for few years now. And these are the hardest cases because there is no way of coming to some agreed upon conclusion. There’s no way of compromise. You know, Mr, Mrs wants to go to Iowa, Mr. wants to stay in New Jersey. You just can’t say “Ok, let’s go to Kentucky instead”. You know it’s half way between the two locations. So there’s very hard case to deal with because there is no compromise and these are often the cases that wind up going to trial.
Bari Weinberger: From your perspective in today’s day and age, do you believe that there is a, for lack of a better term, gender bias? Let’s say, are the courts still more favoring of mom as parent of primary residence or have you seen it evolve dramatically?
Edwin Rosenberg: Well, you know I would take the word dramatically out of there, first of all. I think it’s evolved or evolving. I think it’s an ongoing evolution actually. I’ve been doing this about 21, 22 years now, that’s a long time. And I remember one of my very first cases was case of mom and dad disputing custody of a four year old girl and the dad’s attorney the first question he asked me before I even started seeing the parents: What was my attitude towards dads getting custody of a child? And I told them that I have no bias against or for either parent getting the child. It depends on the facts of the case and etc, we all bring our biases to this process. Attorneys do, judges do, experts do. I try to always look inside myself to notice and identify my bias because I’m sure I have them and try to erase them or at least not let them control what I recommend or what I see. [More on parents rights.]
Bari Weinberger: Thank you, Dr. Rosenberg.
Edwin Rosenberg: You’re welcome.
Bari Weinberger: I genuinely appreciate you coming today and participating in answering all of these really critical questions that people going through custody and other family-related matters absolutely need to know.
Edwin Rosenberg: Thank you for inviting me, it’s a lot nicer than being on the witness stand.
Bari Weinberger: We’ll catch you next time. Thanks!
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