Guardian ad Litem/Custody Evaluation
& Parenting Coordination
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  Gallatin County

Guardian ad Litem, aka, Custody/Parenting Evaluation
& Parenting Plan Coordination

Courts often order custody evaluations on behalf of children with separated parents, particularly in complex and high-conflict cases. The goal of an evaluation is to determine the best interests of the children. An evaluation is done by a forensic social scientist... often called a custody evaluator, custody investigator, or parenting evaluator. Following a detailed investigation, the evaluator writes a report to the court that is designed to help the parents, their attorneys, and the court arrive at the best possible parenting plan.

Dr. Chris Hahn conducts forensic guardian ad litem, aka. parenting/custody evaluations that vary in length depending on the complexity of the case. Evaluations include home visits, observations of each parent with his or her children, interviews with the parents, and a dialog with the children if they are developmentally capable. Records will be checked, and other adults will be interviewed if they can contribute to the evaluator's understanding of the best interests of the children. Psychological evaluations, if indicated, are done by a licensed psychologist.

While Dr. Hahn may discuss developmental issues in the course of an evaluation, he is not a counselor or therapist. Likewise, legal issues may arise during interviews, but the evaluator is not a lawyer and will not give legal advice. His primary responsibility is to gather information and to report his observations to the courts.

Court ordered Parenting Plan Coordination may be indicated when parental turmoil and conflict persists for years after the divorce decree, or in extremely contentious cases. A parenting plan coordinator (PPC) enters a long-term relationship with the family to facilitate discussions about unclear or unaddressed issues in the parenting plan and help resolve conflict. The children are the big winners when a PPC gets involved and the children are taken from the middle of parental conflict. Attorneys remain a valuable part of the process. Psychologists, therapists, and counselors may be very important to the process to provide services that are not provided by the Court appointed dispute resolution specialist/PPC.

Brief Focused Assessments are Court-ordered focused assessments of specific issues that relate to the best interests of the children and parenting. BFAs lack the scope of full custody/parenting evaluations, but they can help resolve particular sticking points that are blocking optimal parenting. BFAs are much less expensive than full guardian ad litem investigations. Because the parties know that the assessor must report to the Court, the assessor is often able to reach mutual agreement in cases that failed mediation. BFAs may be used to help expedite the creation of a new parenting plan or to fine tune an existing arrangement.

Dr. Hahn, who has received specialized training for parenting evaluation and coordination, is a certified as a custody investigator by the Supreme Court of North Dakota. He is a member of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts and adheres to their Model Standards of Practice for Child Custody Evaluation, Guidelines for Parenting Coordination, and Guidelines for Brief Focused Assessment.

To contact Chris Hahn about parenting evaluation, coordination, or assessment e-mail

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Copyright, 2005-2013, Christopher P. Hahn, Ph.D., Bozeman, MT