A Custody Neutral Assessment

A Custody Neutral Assessment, also called a CNA, can only be referred through a court order.

This evaluation happens usually when a couple is in the midst of getting divorced. On occasion, it is also used to provide information to the court when there are other difficulties. One example would be if a child suddenly refused to see a parent.

A Custody Neutral Assessment is a mental health picture of the family. It is not confidential. Anything that is discussed can be sent in the report to the judge. The report is sent directly to the court, not to attorneys or clients. The Custody Neutral Assessment provides information that the court uses to determine questions around parenting time and resources for the children and family. This could include recommendations for individual, dyadic, or family therapy, a parenting coordinator, mediation, substance abuse treatment or substance abuse evaluation/testing, in-home, out-patient, or inpatient services, psychiatric evaluation, school interventions, a referral for a bonding evaluation, a referral for a full custody evaluation, and other case management tools.

The evaluation is done for a flat fee, which is paid before the evaluation begins. The court will determine how this is apportioned, but generally it is divided evenly between the parents. If the evaluation is terminated at any point that fee is not returned. If additional interviews are required due to an unusual change in circumstance or a delay in the completion, additional fees on an hourly basis could be assessed and must be paid before the report is delivered. If the evaluator is required to testify in court, an hourly court rate will be assessed.

A Custody Neutral Assessment is NOT a custody evaluation. Therefore, no standardized psychological testing is used. The evaluator does not make direct custody recommendations and collateral contacts may occur but are not required.

Each parent is seen first for 1 to 2 hours to get the family’s history. Usually, then the children are seen twice. Each parent gets a chance to bring in each child. (As long as there is no court order or investigation that prohibits contact between a parent and a child). When children are little or not very verbal, the evaluator may observe parent and child together in the play room, to get a sense of their interactions. Collateral contacts are often requested. This includes school personnel, therapists, and day care center staff.

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