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Idaho Rules of Family Law Procedure Rule 720. Brief Focused Assessments.

A. Definition of Brief Focused Assessment. A “brief focused assessment” is an assessment of a specific, narrowly defined issue or limited set of issues identified by a judge and designated in a court order. The purpose of the assessment is to provide the judge in a case that falls within the scope of these Rules with information generated through reliable procedures regarding focused questions that have been identified by the court as important to the resolution of a child custody dispute. A qualified assessor conducts interviews, makes observations, reviews relevant records, consults relevant collateral contacts and conducts additional activities in connection with the assessment. The assessment is guided by focused inquiry provided by the court or judicial officer.

 

B.  Limitations of Brief Focused Assessments. A brief focused assessment shall be limited to the issues identified in the court order and shall not contain any recommendations of a custody schedule or opinions from the assessor regarding the best interests of the child/ren.  Acknowledging the limited nature of a brief focused assessment, including the narrow scope of the issues assessed and data gathering related thereto, the assessor shall:

1. offer information and options within the available data;

 

2. respond within the scope of the referral question(s);

 

3. clearly state the limitations of the response within the report;

 

4. avoid broad issues to be addressed by comprehensive custodial evaluations; and

 

5. seek clarification for specific areas of concern in broadly stated requests or orders.

 

C.  Referral Procedures. A brief focused assessment may be initiated upon a motion of any party, agreement of the parties, or on the court’s motion.  Upon receipt of a written stipulation of the parties, or upon granting the motion after proper notice and a hearing, the court shall issue an order that includes a well-defined referral question or set of questions, specifically naming the assessor to conduct the assessment and to whom the report shall be provided upon completion.

 

D. Qualifications of Assessors. Subject to an appointment pursuant to Idaho Rule of Evidence 702, a qualified assessor is an individual who meets or exceeds the qualifications set forth in Rule 719.D.1.

 

E.  Issues Subject to a Brief Focused Assessment.  A brief focused assessment shall be limited to assessing not more than three of the following issues:

1. the wishes of the child or children regarding custody, including the context and bases for those wishes;

 

2. the child/ren’s academic performance and functioning within a defined time period, including, but not limited to, circumstances surrounding the child/ren’s attendance at school or lack thereof;

 

3. the adequacy of the residence(s) of one or more of the child/ren’s physical custodians including, but not limited to, cleanliness and safety;

 

4. the adequacy of the physical environment of any or all third-party care providers to the child/ren including, but not limited to, cleanliness and safety;

 

5. whether any or all of the parties presently consume drugs or alcohol in a manner  that adversely impacts his/her/their ability to provide proper parental care to the child/ren; in so doing, the assessor may request any party or a child of the parties to submit to random drug testing, including urine and hair follicle testing;

 

6. whether or not the circumstances that surrounded a prior court order for supervised contact between a party and the child/ren have changed, including a recommendation for the continuation or termination of supervision;

 

7. the identification of present mental health issues and/or concerns in any or all parties and, for each party about whom issues or concerns are identified, how those issues or concerns are likely to impact the party’s ability to provide a consistent and safe environment during custody time;

 

8. in cases involving a disabled party, the identification of any and all adaptive equipment or supportive services that are available which enable the disabled party to carry out the responsibilities of parenting the child/ren; and,

 

9. any other factual issue that is narrowly-defined by the court.

 

 

F.  Motion/ Stipulation/ Order of Assessment/Assessment.

1.  Every motion or stipulation for the performance of a brief focused assessment shall include specific issues to be addressed in the assessment;

 

2. Every order for brief focused assessment shall include:

a.   the name of the assessor;

 

b.   the referral question(s) for assessment;

 

c.   names and dates of birth of those assessed;

 

d.   a requirement that the parties  cooperate as requested by the assessor, including that they execute and sign any and all releases of information necessary for the assessor to obtain access to documents that are relevant to the referral question(s);

 

e.   provide for the assessor to have access to all records, public or private, identified in the court order;

 

f.   assign responsibility for payment; and
 

g.   require a written assessment to be prepared unless the court orders otherwise.

 

 

3.  Every brief focused assessment shall include:

a.   a discussion of issues related to the referral question, including acknowledgment of the limitation to the data;

 

b.   conclusions relevant to the issues raised in the referral question, if requested by the court; and

 

c.   documentation that limits of confidentiality were explained.

 

 

G.  Admissibility of Reports. A report prepared consistent with this rule shall be admissible into evidence, subject to cross-examination. The court may consider the information contained in the report in resolving the issue(s) addressed in the assessment. The Idaho Rules of Evidence do not exclude the report from consideration by the court.

 

H.  Form of the Report and Transmittal to the Court. The written report shall be submitted to the Court provided that copies are contemporaneously distributed to the parties. The parties shall have an opportunity to cross-examine the assessor if the contents of the assessment are introduced into evidence in the form of expert testimony or a written report. If the report is oral, the court shall not hear the contents of the report and findings unless both parties are present.

 

I.  Judicial Immunity.  An assessor appointed to conduct a brief focused assessment pursuant to this Rule has qualified judicial immunity in accordance with Idaho law as to all acts undertaken pursuant to and consistent with the order of appointment.

 

(Adopted April 27, 2016, effective July 1, 2016; adopted May 10, 2017, effective July 1, 2017.)

As the Third Branch of Government, we provide access to justice through the timely, fair, and impartial resolution of cases.

 

Members of the
Idaho Supreme Court

Chief Justice Roger S. Burdick
Justice Warren E. Jones
Justice Joel D. Horton
Justice Robyn M. Brody
Justice G. Richard Bevan



Members of the
Idaho Court of Appeals

Chief Judge David W. Gratton
Judge Sergio A. Gutierrez
Judge Molly J. Huskey
Judge Jessica M. Lorello

 

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