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What's really involved in a Custody Neutral Assessment? Will the mental health expert review certifications?

Wrightstown, NJ |

I've been ordered to go through this process with my child's mother ( never married ) . I have a very solid case and this seems to be a step in the right direction for a change in custody but I just don't know what to expect since there's not a lot of information on line .

Attorney Answers 4


  1. As defined by the court a Custody Neutral Assessment is a program within which an "independent expert will prepare a report for the Court offering a snapshot of the [custody / parenting time ] issues and his/her impressions for hte purpose of seeking resolution of those issues...The intent of [the] program is to create an expedited turnaround time with an antcipipated receipt of a report within thirty dyas of the last appointment with the evaluator..." While most evaluators will generally review "certifications" and other material presented by each party it is up to each independent evaluator to decide what, if any, material he/she will consider.

    Kenneth A. White, Esq.
    New Jersey Family Law Attorney

    The Answer provided was based on the limited information provided, and represents information based on the law in general, not a legal opinion that can be relied upon. Before a formal legal opinion can be offered I would need an opportunity to review all possible relevant facts and circumstances. You cannot rely on the advice of an attorney given over the internet. The exact facts of your sitaution, including facts which you have not mentioned in your question, may completely change the opinion that is being offered. Please be aware that the above comments are neither protected by attorney-client privilege, nor may the same be the basis for a malpractice lawsuit.


  2. The Custody Neutral Assessment (CNA) process is not specifically governed by or mentioned in the Rules of Court of New Jersey. The CNA program is not a statewide program and is not uniform where it is being used. CNAs have been used in Burlington and Ocean Counties for quite some time. I believe it is also implemented in Mercer and Middlesex Counties as well.

    In Burlington County the CNA program is described as follows:

    The Custody Neutral Assessment Program (CNA) is available for high conflict cases that are inappropriate for, or are unable to be resolved, through mediation. This program utilizes several mental health practitioners in the community who meet with the parties, discuss contested issues and make clinical recommendations to the court on how to resolve disputed issues.

    You should understand that a CNA does not involve psychological testing or evaluation. After one or more meetings with the litigants, it is simply the mental health professionals' recitation of his/her concerns and those of the litigants - it provided a "snapshot" and CNA's opinion regarding possible issues and concerns. The professional is not supposed to make a custodial or parenting time recommendation; rather the professional advises the court of what other steps might be considered.

    It is a good starting point, but it is not a substitute for a full blown custody evaluation.

    Good luck.

    I would be happy to follow up with you. Please email me directly or call my office if you would like to schedule an appointment either in person or by telephone. www.burnhamlawgroup.com Disclaimer: You cannot rely on the advice of an attorney given over the internet. The exact facts of your situation, including facts which you have not mentioned in your question, may completely change the result for your situation. Please be aware that the above comments are neither protected by attorney-client privilege, nor may be the basis for a malpractice lawsuit should the suggestion be followed with undesirable results.


  3. The other attorneys have described the process very well. CNAs are really just provide a "snapshot" of the circumstances surrounding the family, and the evaluator does not include any psychological testing or evaluation in the process. If that is something that you feel is necessary in your matter, you would have to make that request of the Court separately, and may want to consider retaining an expert to conduct a full custody evaluation. Please also consider consulting with an experienced Family Law attorney regarding the specific facts and circumstances involved in your matter. Please also review the articles found at the link provided below for additional information.

    The information provided is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. This information is designed for general information only. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your specific situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and emails. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.


  4. It's a rather perfunctory (quick) discussion with a mental health expert.

    DISCLAIMER This answer is provided for educational purposes only. By using or participating in this site you agree and understand that there is no attorney client privilege between you and the attorney responding. This site cannot be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices law in the State where this offense is charged; and, who has experience in the area of law you are asking questions about and with whom you would have an attorney client relationship. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The information and materials provided are general in nature, and may not apply to a specific factual or legal circumstance described in the question, or in the State where this charge is filed

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