If certain aspects of your child custody case are disputed – such as parental decision-making and parenting time – you may have to deal with a parental responsibilities evaluation (PRE). You or your spouse may request a PRE, or the court may decide to order it, so that an independent evaluator can investigate the matter.
What can you expect during a PRE, and how can you best prepare for it? Here are some tips.
The PRE Process
A typical PRE in Colorado takes about 90 days and includes the following steps:
- The evaluator talks to each parent separately. This may involve face-to-face interviews as well as questionnaires.
- The evaluator also provides questionnaires to collateral contacts such as the child’s other family members and teachers.
- The evaluator also observes how each parent interacts with the child.
- If the child is old enough, he or she may provide an interview to the evaluator.
- Other surrounding adults such as day care providers, doctors, and close family friends may also be interviewed.
- At the end of the investigation, the evaluator submits a report to the court, including his or her recommendations on the case.
Knowing this process, you must be ready for the evaluator’s home visits and communication. You’ll also want to gather all relevant documentation regarding your child, such as academic records, medical records, legal papers, and even personal family documentation. These could help you show the evaluator how you have taken care of your child over the years.
Cost of A PRE
Apart from being ready for the process, you must also be prepared for the expenses associated with a PRE. The majority of the cost would be the payment for the evaluator, who has to be a licensed mental health professional. Depending on the expert’s rate, the complexity of the case, and the psychological work involved, a parental responsibility evaluation in Colorado can range between $1,000 and $10,000.
Colorado courts allow you and your spouse to reasonably split the expenses. But to avoid delays, many judges require that the payment should initially come from the party who requested the PRE. This would then be allocated at a later hearing.
Accommodating A Parental Responsibilities Evaluator
Being cooperative with the parental evaluator is obviously important, but you can take steps to improve your dealings with him or her. One way is to avoid overburdening the evaluator with too many documents or too many witnesses. Some evaluators actually end up just scanning through the overwhelming material they are provided, potentially missing more vital data. Thus, you’ll want to keep your input directly relevant to the case.
In this regard, you can work with your attorney to ensure that the material you provide is framed and presented well. What should you emphasize in your interview with the evaluator? Which documents would be helpful to your case? What message should be supported by witnesses? Your lawyer could guide you in presenting your side the best way, from a family law standpoint.
Consulting an attorney is also valuable if you have any concerns at regarding how the evaluation is being done or what the possible outcomes are. You can talk to us at Goldman Law if you have questions before, during, or after your PRE.