Custody Evaluator has Standing to Sue for Fees
On May 4, 2018, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania issued an opinion in S.G. v. J.M.G. Appeal of: Dr. K.L., Custody Evaluator. The case, taking place in Luzerne County, was a custody dispute between the parents of three minor children. In the course of the case, the children’s father hired a custody evaluator. The Court ordered both parties to cooperate with the evaluation and allowed the children’s mother time to engage her own expert.
After Mother refused to participate in the evaluation as ordered and did not engage her own expert, the Court entered an order requiring her to pay a portion of the fees incurred for Father’s expert.
The custody evaluator, Dr. Lewis, filed a Motion for Contempt under the custody case against Mother when she did not pay her portion of his fees. The court in Luzerne County determined that Dr. Lewis could not sue for contempt because he lacked standing to do so.
The Superior Court disagreed and held that Dr. Lewis does have standing to file a contempt action against Mother because the court ordered her to pay his fees which were incurred in the course of the custody case.
The Court determined that Dr. Lewis had standing to sue for contempt and that the trial court erred in concluding that he did not. The order from Luzerne County was, therefore, reversed and the case was sent back to the trial court for further proceedings.
This means that in future cases where a party is ordered by the court to pay fees for a custody evaluation but does not do so, the custody evaluator has standing to file a Petition for Contempt against the party to enforce the order and collect the fees.