If you and your former spouse or the other parent have been unable to reach an agreement regarding child custody, the family court judge deciding your case may order a custody evaluation. A custody evaluation is a process in which a mental health professional, usually a psychologist, evaluates you, your children and your children's other parent in order to make a custody and visitation recommendation to the court. Courts tend to give considerable weight to the recommendations of the evaluator. Stange Law Firm, PC, can help explain custody evaluations and answer your child custody questions.
Basics of Custody Evaluation
Custody evaluations can be expensive, but some courts have lower-cost alternatives. Though ordered by the court, the parties usually pay for the evaluation.
The court may assign an evaluator to you or may allow you to choose from a list of evaluators. Regardless of who chooses the evaluator and who pays for the evaluation, the evaluator should be neutral and should not have a patient-therapist relationship with anyone in the family either before or after the evaluation.
Custody Evaluation Process
The evaluator is working to make a determination of the best interests of the child. The typical custody evaluation consists of interviews with each parent and the children; observation of parental interaction with each child in the office and potentially at home; psychological testing as necessary; review of court documents; interviews with people like teachers; and pediatricians and day care providers as necessary.
Once the evaluation process is complete, the evaluator will issue a report with recommendations regarding custody and visitation. Most evaluators will specifically address concerns raised by each parent in making recommendations.
Custody Evaluation Report
The custody evaluator may meet with you to discuss the report. Most reports contain:
- A recommendation regarding custody and visitation
- A parenting plan to help you carry out the recommended schedule and a process for resolving future problems
- Suggestions for therapy or parenting classes as needed
- Guidelines for dealing with special problems like abuse, violence or parental alienation
- Schedules or suggestions for reevaluation as needed
You can read more on this topic in an article titled: Custody Evaluations and Methodology.
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