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Child Custody Evaluations and Visitation Recommendations

Still Waters Counseling is pleased to offer a full range of psychological and counseling services to families who are at risk of, considering, going through, or have completed the divorce process.  We at Still Waters are committed to families, and recognize that divorce can have a devastating effect on both the adults and the children involved.  We are passionate about keeping families intact if at all possible, but if not to guide them through the divorce process with the minimum damage possible.  To this end we offer pre-marital, marital, divorce, and post-divorce counseling.

Child Custody Evaluations are a critical service to families experiencing the conflict of divorce and who are at odds about who should have primary custody of their children.  Our training and experience with families in transition gives us a unique vantage point to determine the best interests of the child based on evaluation of each person within the family and the dynamics of that family unit.  At Still Waters we recognize that the determination of custody and visitation arrangements form the basis of the family’s interactions from that day forward, and therefore take the responsibility of conducting the custody evaluation very seriously.

In order to make the best possible decision we utilize psychological testing, interviews with all parents and children, and collateral information gathered from a wide variety of sources.  These sources can include teachers, neighbors, therapists, attorneys, and so on.  The parents are also encouraged to bring in any materials they think may be pertinent to the evaluation.

Brian Pearson, Ph.D. and Smita Nagpal, Ph.D. would be the primary clinicians conducting the evaluations.  Brian and Smita are both fully licensed psychologists who earned their doctorates majoring in Marital and Family Therapy.  They have over 40 years of clinical experience between them, and have conducted many psychological and visitation evaluations over the years for both Lenawee, Hillsdale, and Branch County Courts, as well as for DHS in those counties.

We at Still Waters are knowledgeable of and sensitive to issues of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), as well as those of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse.  We are also trained to recognize when a parent is trying to falsely accuse the other parent of PAS.  In addition, we are trained in the Michigan Forensic Interview Protocol to avoid leading the child to inaccurate statements regarding parent behavior.

We  recognize that all twelve of the factors used in determining the best interests of the child (Child Custody Act of 1970) are important in the determination of child custody.  In addition, we use the Ackerman Model as a basis in evaluating and making recommendations concerning custody.  The Ackerman model is considered the gold standard in the psychological professions in custody evaluation models.  We do not hold any bias regarding children being placed with the mother or the father, instead letting the facts speak for themselves.

Charges to clients are fair and competitive, being determined by the number of family members involved and the number of hours needed to complete the evaluation.  Our base rate for a Child Custody Evaluation is $2500.  In especially complex situations, or ones with large numbers of children, the fee may be somewhat higher, but the vast majority of cases would be at this rate.  These charges are favorably comparable to other professionals in the community providing this service, while being comprehensive and thorough.

All Child Custody Evaluations include the following :

  • Psychological testing , including scales measuring personality, frustration/anger management, substance abuse, intelligence (if identified as an issue only), and an instrument developed by Dr. Pearson and Dr. Nagpal measuring a parents’ typical strategies for dealing with the other parent in times of stress or conflict.
  • Multiple interviews with each parent
  • Interviews with the child(ren), as age-appropriate
  • Observation of parent-child interaction
  • Collateral information from step-parents, family members, teachers, and  any other persons who are in a position to provide information
  • Review of educational documentation, police reports, and any other information the parents deem appropriate for review, including written and audio-visual data.
  • Information from past and present mental health professionals

We at Still Waters Counseling believe that with our training and expertise we could provide very high quality evaluations to assist the courts in making the best child custody decisions possible. We ask that you strongly consider referring to us when sending families for child custody evaluations, or to counseling regarding issues of divorce, custody, or visitation.  We believe that you will be very pleased with the quality of our services if given the opportunity.