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Mediation and Family Court Services

 

Mediation and Family Court Services

Custody Assessment Team 

Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, Mediation and Family Court Services is taking precautions to protect the health and safety of the public and staff.  All Custody Assessment interviews are currently being conducted via ZOOM video.  Please do not report to our office for your interview. Please contact us at 608-785-6162 for additional information.

La Crosse County utilizes a team approach in custody assessments, the Custody Assessment Team (Team).  Each member of the Team has different training and perspectives on family issues.  The Team is composed of a Guardian ad Litem (GAL), Child Development Specialist (CDS) and Child Custody Evaluator (CCE).

The purpose of this non-confidential evaluation is to assist the Court in determining the best interests of the children by providing information, and recommendations, with respect to the children's living arrangements, the amount of time they spend with each parent, and how the parents might assume decision-making responsibility for their children.  The Team considers all factors provided in Wisconsin Statutes Section 767.41(5) in reaching its recommendations.

   The evaluation process consists of the following:

  1. Initial Referral: If either parent requests a custody evaluation, a pretrial is scheduled during which the Family Court Commissioner (Commissioner) may order you to participate in an evaluation.  If the evaluation is ordered, you are asked to sign authorizations allowing the Team to access information about you and the children, and the fee will be allocated.  The Feedback Session and the Recommendation Hearing will be also be scheduled. 

  2. Interviews: The parents meet the Team at the initial parent-team meeting.  Both parents appear at the initial parent-team meeting (except in cases involving domestic/intimate partner violence).  The Team schedules four individual interviews with each parent, and the CDS schedules interviews and/or observations of the children and parents.  Additional interviews or sessions may be scheduled if deemed necessary by the Team.  Other persons involved with the family, including professionals, may be interviewed at the discretion of the Team. 

  3. Home Visits:  The Team will travel to your home for the home visit.  If you do not reside in Wisconsin, other arrangements will be made for your home visit.   All persons residing in your home must be present for the home visit. 

  4. Collateral Information: Information from Child Protective Services, law enforcement, medical and behavioral health providers, employers, daycare, school, and other sources deemed relevant may be reviewed by the Team.  The Team may also communicate directly with any individual having knowledge relevant to the issues under consideration.

  5. Additional Evaluations: The Team may request additional tests or evaluations such as Alcohol and other Drug Abuse, Psychological, Psychiatric, Medical, etc.  The parents are responsible for any costs resulting from additional evaluations.

  6. Written Report: After completing all interviews, gathering and reviewing information, and communicating with persons having relevant information, the Team meets to discuss recommendations in the children’s best interests.  After determining their recommendations, the Team drafts a written report.  The goal of the report is to provide information to the Court to assist in determining appropriate orders regarding custody and physical placement for the children after considering all relevant factors including those set forth in Wisconsin Statutes Section 767.41(5)

  7. Feedback Session: After completing the report, the Team meets with the parents and their attorneys to share their recommendations and provide them with a copy of the written report.  The written report will be provided to the Commissioner prior to the Recommendation Hearing.

  8. Recommendation Hearing: The Commissioner presides over the Recommendation Hearing at which the parents, their attorneys and the Team appear.  The Commissioner asks the parents if they have objections to the Team’s recommendations and directs the Team to address their objections.  After hearing from the parents and the Team, the Commissioner will render an order for custody and placement.

    • Fees: The fee for this service is $7,100 payable to the Clerk of Court.  The Family Court Commissioner determines how this fee is to be allocated between the parties and the terms of payment.

      • Additional Fees.  The $7100 fee covers only the work described above.  Except for the Recommendation Hearing, additional fees are required for work done to prepare for and appear at hearings, to prepare pleadings or briefs to the court, for work performed in preparation for and appearances resulting from the request for a de novo review, or any work not specifically described above.

         

    • Insurance. Fees for an assessment of this type are not reimbursable by insurance.

 

IMPORTANT: IF YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS ABOUT PHYSICAL SAFETY FROM PARTICIPATING IN THE CUSTODY ASSESSMENT, PLEASE CALL MEDIATION AND FAMILY COURT SERVICES AT 608-785-6162 IMMEDIATELY.