Mark Ashton, a partner in our Exton, Pennsylvania office, and the editor of the firm’s Pennsylvania Family Law blog, wrote an excellent post on that blog entitled, "Custody Evaluation". To read the post, click here.
I have previously blogged on this topic, as well. To review my prior post on How to Prepare for a Custody Evaluation, click here.
Though Mark is in Pennsylvania, much of what he says would apply in NJ too. However, while he says that the evaluations typically cost between $5,000 and $7,500, while that is not an uncommon "retainer" for an evaluation in New Jersey, it is rare that the costs do not exceed the retainer, and that is just for the report. It does not include fees for testimony at trial or a deposition.
However, in New Jersey, I think that typically, judge’s do find the reports useful, especially if the expert is a joint or court appointed expert. That said, a judge is required to make independent fact findings and cannot simply defer to and/or abdicate judicial responsibility to the expert. There are times that you have to fight the deference to the expert. In those cases, you may need to get your own expert. Given best practices, judges do not always allow you to get a new expert if the expert is a joint expert. If it is a court appointed expert, a party has a right to get their own expert.
At Fox Rothschild, our family law group is capable of handling the most complex and/or contentious custody litigation. I have also previously blogged on the new American Psychological Association Guidelines for custody evaluations. To review that post, click here. Similarly, I have blogged on other "experts" for custody/parenting issues in high conflict divorces. To review that post, click here.