What Are Custody Evaluations?
- What is a child custody evaluation?
- When is a custody evaluation ordered?
- Who conducts the evaluation?
- What is the process like?
- What if I disagree with the outcome?
A child custody evaluation is a process used by courts to gather information about a child’s living situation in order to make decisions about custody and parenting time.
What is a child custody evaluation?
The process typically involves a court-appointed evaluator who interviews the parents and observes the child with each parent. The evaluator may also interview other people involved in the child’s life such as family members, teachers, doctors, and caregivers. The goal is to provide the court with information that will help them determine what custody arrangement would serve the best interest of the child.
When might a child custody evaluation be ordered?
A court might order a child custody evaluation if:
- Divorcing parents cannot agree on custody and parenting time
- Parents hold significantly different opinions about what is in the child’s best interest
- Concerns exist about the safety, well-being, or developmental needs of the child
- There are allegations of abuse or neglect, parental alienation, or substance abuse
Who completes a child custody evaluation?
A court-ordered child custody evaluation is typically completed by a court-appointed evaluator. This person may be a licensed mental health professional or an attorney appointed by the court.
The evaluator is usually neutral and independent, meaning they do not have a pre-existing relationship with either parent or a vested interest in the outcome of the custody case.
Both parents typically have input in the evaluation process. The court provides instructions on how it should be conducted. The parents may be asked to provide information, such as medical or school records, and may be interviewed by the evaluator. They may also be asked to participate in observations or evaluations with the child.
What is the evaluation process like?
The child custody evaluation process usually involves the following steps:
- Initial consultation: The evaluator may meet with each parent separately to gather information about the family history, the reason for the evaluation, and any concerns they have.
- Interviews: The evaluator will usually interview the child, each parent, and other pertinent individuals in the child’s life. The evaluator will seek to understand the child’s relationship with each parent, the child’s needs and interests, and any concerns or disputes that exist between the parents.
- Observations: The evaluator may make home visits in which they observe each parent interacting with the child to gain insight into their parenting styles and the quality of their relationships.
- Testing: The evaluator may use various psychological tests or other means of psychological evaluation to gauge the child’s emotional and psychological well-being.
- Report: After completing the evaluation, the evaluator will prepare a written custody evaluation report. The report will highlight their findings and recommendations regarding custody and parenting time. The report will then be submitted to the court and used by the judge to determine a custody arrangement.
The entire evaluation process can take weeks or even months to complete. It depends on the complexity of the case and the availability of the individuals involved.
What if I disagree with the custody evaluation and final report?
If you disagree with the final report, you can challenge the evaluator's findings in court. This is a complex process, so it's a good idea to discuss your options with a lawyer or legal advocate.
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