What is a Parenting Capacity Evaluation?

Brandon WaltripDivorce & Child Custody

In this blog I review ‘What is a Parenting Capacity Evaluation?’ This includes background on the specifics of a parenting capacity evaluation, the evaluation process and the role a lawyer should play in a parenting capacity evaluation. If you are curious as to what a parenting capacity evaluation maybe, or have been ordered by a court to complete one, I hope you will find this blog informative.

Parent Capacity Evaluation

A Parenting Capacity Evaluation, or “PCE,” as commonly referred, is a diagnostic instrument used by courts in both custody and child protective matters to assist the courts in making determinations of custody, visitation, or fitness to maintain a parenting role with a child.

From a procedural perspective, a PCE, will not be conducted until such time as a party, a Guardian ad litem, or the Court – on its own motion, moves for the completion of one. In most custody matters, the PCE, once ordered, is required by both parents, or any other interested party seeking custody. The PCE is carried out by an individual licensed to complete the testing involved in the evaluation.

The Evaluation Process

The process of the evaluation involves a written or sometimes computer based objective testing as well as a subjective analysis of those results and an interview of the parties by the evaluator. In some cases, the subjective analysis will include the evaluator viewing visitation periods between the parent and the child. Such evaluations are key to the courts ultimate rulings in cases where a PCE is implemented.

After completion of the evaluations the evaluator will submit written findings to the court that include recommendations for treatment or to improve the parenting skills of the parties involved. Recommendations can include, but are not always limited to actions such as: substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, medication management, parenting classes, as well as individual and group therapy. At times there may also be recommendations for the children to include individual, or group play therapy, among other things.

Role of the Lawyer

As an attorney, representation of a client requires an understanding of both the objective and subjective portions of the evaluation. The attorney should be familiar with and experienced in the various testing methods used by evaluators to identify mental health and substance abuse issues. Additionally, the attorney should be familiar with appropriate procedures for the subjective portion of the testing, or at a minimum what techniques, the number of sessions, and the environment under which the evaluations were performed.

Cases which involve the use of PCEs are often difficult custody cases with very serious issues. A good practitioner will assist their client in not only understanding the results but creating a pathway for the client to succeed in following the treatment recommendations. As well as, elimination of, modification, or questioning portions of an evaluation that may not be appropriately assessed or contrary to given standards of treatment. When each of these areas are appropriately assessed, investigated and understood by both the attorney and the client, it will often lead to an outcome understood by the parties and in line with the goals of representation.

If you have a custody or child protective matter and have been ordered to complete a parenting capacity evaluation, be sure to hire an attorney experienced in these matters. At Waltrip & Campbell, PC we have attorneys experienced in all custody, visitation and child protective matters, feels free to contact our firm and seek a consult related to your case.

This blog was written by Brandon C. Waltrip, Esq., an experienced and compassionate child custody lawyer. He can be reached at Brandon@waltripfirm.com for specific questions related to this blog.