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Can a Child Custody Evaluator Access Confidential Information?

Park Ridge divorce attorney for child custody evaluatorsWhen parents are divorcing or separated, they may disagree about how to share responsibility for raising their children, the amount of parenting time children will spend with each parent, and a variety of other issues. In some divorce or child custody cases, the court may require assistance from outside experts such as child custody evaluators, to help determine what would be in children’s best interests. When working with these professionals, both parents and children may be concerned about what records will be available to them and whether confidential information will be released as part of the court record. At Weiss-Kunz & Oliver, LLC, we recently represented a client in a case that clarified some of these issues.

How Does Illinois Law Address Child Custody Evaluators?

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) specifies when and how professionals may be appointed to perform investigations and evaluations of a situation and provide recommendations about children’s best interests. According to 750 ILCS 5/604.10(b), a person who is appointed by the court may review relevant records and information related to the case, and they will present a report that explains their conclusions and recommendations about the allocation of parental responsibilities, parenting time, or child relocation.

Another section of the IMDMA, 750 ILCS 5/607.6(d), states that if the court orders that a child should receive individual counseling or that one or both of the parents should undergo family counseling with their child, these counseling sessions will be confidential. Any communication made by any of the parties (including parents and children) during counseling cannot be used during litigation, nor can a professional appointed by the court consider the contents of a counseling session when performing an evaluation.

An Example of the Laws Regarding Confidentiality

Attorneys Amanda Oliver and Andrew Ference recently addressed these matters in a Cook County family law case in which we represented a woman during post-divorce litigation. A court expert was appointed to evaluate parenting matters, and this expert interviewed therapists that had been appointed by the court and reviewed their notes from their sessions with the parties. The children, who were represented by a guardian ad litem and a child representative, filed a motion to discharge the expert and bar her report because it was based on confidential information. Our client supported this motion.

When addressing this matter, our attorneys argued that even though the parties had provided releases allowing the court-appointed therapists to speak to the custody evaluator, the use of confidential information to reach the conclusions in the evaluator’s report was in violation of the law. The judge agreed, and the report was barred from being considered during the remainder of the case.

Contact an Elmhurst Child Custody Lawyer

The matters addressed during a contentious divorce or child custody case can be very sensitive, and you will want to be sure you and your children will be able to maintain privacy and confidentiality when working with court-appointed experts. At Weiss-Kunz & Oliver, LLC, we can advise you of your rights in these types of cases, and we can provide you with the representation you need as you work to reach a resolution that protects your children’s best interests. To speak to a DuPage County family law attorney, contact our office today at 312-605-4041.

 

Sources:

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs5.asp?ActID=2086&ChapterID=59

http://illinoisdivorcedigest.com/media/com_acymailing/upload/vol10iss10december2019wc.pdf

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