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PARENTING PLANS: Complex Parenting Plan Issues

Feb 22, 2022




Chapter 4 1:30-3:00pm Parenting Investigations Caroline Davis, Family Law Mediator and GAL Naomi Oderberg, Ph.D. Melanie English, Ph.D., MSW PowerPoint distributed at the program and also available for download in electronic format:
1. Parenting Investigations Electronic format only:
1. Exposing the Experts
Caroline Davis, Family Law Mediator and GAL Naomi Oderberg, PhD,
Melanie English, PhD, MSW
Do you even need someone? Screening your client. Pros and cons of evaluation services.
When you do need one—allegations of domestic violence, chemical dependency, special needs children, mental health issues, serious parenting deficits…
Guardian Ad Litem Parenting Evaluator Psychologist Social Worker Family Court Services Family Law CASA Terminology, roles—other states
Guardian Ad Litem Parenting Evaluator
Advocate for child/represent best interests of child
Investigates family to identify parents relative strengths and limitations
Party status/reviewing and signing orders, GALR 4(D) and (E)
Trained Lay Person, Attorney, or Mental Health Professional
Attorney, Mental Health Professional (MA, MSW, LCSW, PHD)
Formal Training Program by KCBA PETP or Workshop based (AFCC), Family Court Services
Registry Word of mouth, FCS--assigned
RCW 26.12.175 AFCC Model Standards of Practice for Child Custody Evaluations, American Psychological Association (APA) Standards
Hourly rate. May have a fee limit Hourly rate. May have a fee limit.
What about other services? GALR 2(j) Often includes psych testing
Recommends a residential schedule based upon the application of RCW’s. Unless otherwise noted, can’t make requests but can make recommendations.
Recommendations based on psychological and developmental needs of child and may include remediation for mental health issues.
Interim report, updates possible Final report and/or update for modification
PE/GAL Agreed order. Appointed by the court directly. Two or three names provided on an order (call to
verify availability) Ordered list of GALs in other counties.
Family Court Services (FCS) Order sent directly to the FCS department and
assigned to a social worker by the program manager.
FCS services
Family Law CASA Limited appointments, orders
Similar orders are used for PEs and GALs— make sure language matches role!
Specify scope of role on order and check only relevant boxes to investigate.
Write in issues pertinent to the case.
Interim, final reports and updates...pros and cons.
NEVER appoint an evaluator without checking with them first. NEVER, really NEVER!!!
Availability: Easiest to use email and cc opposing side or do a conference call.
Evaluator needs to know time frame (due date for report and date of trial), the names of the parties (for a conflict check) and names of both counsel, SEA or KNT designation, if either party is out of county/state/country. Also helpful to discuss types of allegations without laying out your case. For example DV, substance abuse, child abuse, mental illness. You need to know evaluator’s fee schedule and retainer amount and method of payment (check or credit card, etc.).
Let evaluator know how soon Order will be entered. (Never assume the evaluator will still be available 3-4 weeks after you first called.)
Immediately upon entry of Order Appointing Evaluator, forward a copy of the Order to the GAL/evaluator.
As a courtesy, let GAL/evaluator know if not appointed. Evaluators determine how many new cases to take based on these contacts and may hold off taking another case if they think your case is about to be assigned to them.
Ask evaluator how he/she wants materials from the case. Some may want it in electronic form and some may want hard copies or both. Don’t assume without asking. Either way there should be an index of the pleadings you provide. If they are sent in electronic form in one bundle, your index needs to include page numbers so the evaluator can find a document again without having to go through every page of the attachment you sent. If you send in electronic form, make sure you and your staff scan and send the pages right side up. (If you can’t remember which way to insert pages in your scanner, then find out and tape a note to the machine.) Also make sure to supply all necessary contact information for your client including address, phone, and email. If that is confidential tell the evaluator up front and highlight that issue.
You need to provide all contact information for your client to the GAL/PE. Be sure to alert the evaluator if the contact
information is confidential.
If there is a related criminal case, provide key pleadings such as the Information, and Temporary or Final Orders, and any No Contact Orders.
Completed parent questionnaire form. A copy of the client’s Washington State Driving Abstract. Personal references. Day Care/School information and signatures for release of information. Copies of any police reports or incident reports involving the party, the
other party or other parties related to the case or children. Copies of a child’s report cards and any progress reports,
Individualized Education Plans (IEP) and/or other school forms regarding academics or conduct.
Telephone numbers ore email of the child’s teacher(s). Certificates of Completion for any other treatment programs (including
parenting classes, substance abuse treatment, anger management, domestic violence treatment, etc.).
Copies of child’s well-child check-ups or other medical information/reports, including signing a release form for the child’s pediatrician.
Copies of mental health records (only when relevant and necessary). Pros and cons of requesting mental health records Safe Haven vs. reporting therapist for children
Summons Proof of service, attempts at service Parts of case schedule other than 1st page and page
3 with dates Notes for Motion of motions that have occurred Proposed orders except Parenting Plans Electronic filing receipts Duplicates, triplicates, quadzuplicates of the
pleadings * weed these out *** If you filed a Revision you don’t need to give the
expert all of the pleadings again, just a copy of the Motion for Revision and the resulting Court Order
Children’s Protective Services (CPS) Teachers, day care providers, school counselors Primary physicians, psychiatrists Therapists for the family, marriage, and/or
children Police or probation officers Previous GALs or other child custody evaluators
for the family Personal references (grandparents, ex-partners,
friends, neighbors, employers) What about pastors, parenting coaches,
Except for information or records specified in *RCW 13.50.100(5), the guardian ad litem shall have access to all information available to the state or agency on the case. Upon presentation of the order of appointment by the guardian ad litem, any agency, hospital, school organization, division or department of the state, doctor, nurse, or other health care provider, psychologist, psychiatrist, police department, or mental health clinic shall permit the guardian ad litem to inspect and copy any records relating to the child or children involved in the case, without the consent of the parent or guardian of the child, or of the child if the child is under the age of thirteen years, unless such access is otherwise specifically prohibited by law.
There are some exceptions to this, with Children’s Protective Services (CPS), being one of them. Orders appointing PEs/GALs may specify authorization to speak with providers, however, this isn’t always easily acknowledged. Encourage parties to speak with their professional providers and ask what they need from the party in order to communicate with their PE/GAL.
Information typically requiring signed releases include medical information for the family, other psychological evaluations, therapy notes, reports, etc.
Sometimes teachers, day care workers and others don’t want a copy of the court order and don’t want/require a release but do need consent from the parties to communicate and sometimes they won’t agree to communicate at all!
Payment of records and what release form to use.
Types of Ancillary Evaluations When a potential serious issue is suspected during a GAL/PE but there is not enough data to made a determination… Substance Abuse Violence Assessment/Domestic Violence Child Sexual Abuse Psychosexual Evaluations (alleged perpetrator) Psychiatric Evaluation (medications) Psychological Evaluations (mental illness,
personality deficits, parenting capacity) Neuropsychological Evaluations (cognitive
deficits/childhood issues such as ADHD)
Individual interviews Conversations about family of origin Relationship history Current and past substance use
Testing Sometimes a brief mental status tool might be used and
self-reporting measures, like the MAST (Michigan Alcohol Screening Test),SASSI (Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory)
At least 4 random UA’s (per the court), monitoring Use ETGs for Alcohol use
Collateral Contacts Ex-spouse/partner Professionals working with client and family Personal references
External sources of data Review of pleadings provided should be noted Previous substance abuse records Driving abstract Criminal history and arrest record
Conclusions presentation and demeanor, assessment of
current stage, assessment of motivation and/or resistance to change, interpretation and integration of data
Testing provides— A shortcut for hypothesis generation Assessment of mental health and personality
deficits Information about parenting capability
Testing provides only one data point It must be interpreted within
the context of all other data
Screening Discontinue contact Phased in plan based on meeting criteria Professionally supervised Lay supervision Unsupervised w/no overnights Unsupervised w/overnights Sole decision making for non-abusive parent No parental contact during transitions Email only No access to children outside residential time for
The therapist has not taken the steps to understand the systemic family context.
The therapist has not maintained a balanced perspective and has aligned with one parent against the other.
The therapist has not fully explored multiple hypotheses.
The therapist has expressed opinions or recommendations that exceed the therapist’s knowledge or role.
The therapist has not been able to self-reflect regarding issues of bias.
The therapist has not supported the child’s independent perceptions and needs.
Distinguish between reunification and individual therapy.
See Bar Bulletin article handout.
Parents disengage and have little or no interactions with each other. Detailed schedule. Nothing is left open to Interpretation. Assumption that schedule is not flexible. Each parent is responsible for making decisions during their residential
time. Major decisions are communicated by the parent with authority without
discussion. In the event of emergencies, parents will communicate. Email for necessary communication, email manager or a parenting
notebook Face to Face parental contact is minimized during transitions (transition
at school or activities). Each parent gets child information independently (from school,
coaches, etc.). If any deviation or change from the agreed-upon plan or order is
requested, negotiations will take place with the assistance of a pre- determined neutral.
A parent coordinator may be necessary to arbitrate parenting issues that are not specified by the parenting plan.
Obtain PE/GAL file, notes, emails. Rehabilitate your client. Is the investigation completed and thorough
but the recommendations don’t follow the data?
Counterbalancing an unfavorable report. Domestic violence victimization. Settlement versus trial.
Chapter 4
Chapter 4a
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