A lot of divorce cases are riddled with conflict. When this tension leads to litigation, a court is often left trying to parse the truth from two very differing points-of-view. This is challenging to say the least, and it puts the judge in a difficult position where he or she has to make a decision, based on uncertain information, that can impact a child’s life.
Why the courts turn to child custody evaluations
To avoid doing that, the court might order a child custody evaluation. Either parent can request this evaluation, too, which is conducted by a mental health professional who is typically appointed by the court. This professional will then conduct a thorough investigation into your family resulting in a report being submitted to the court explaining the family dynamics and recommending a custody arrangement. This gives the court an unbiased assessment and recommendation focused on the child’s best interests.
What goes into a custody evaluation?
These evaluations are comprehensive. Yours might include each of the following:
- An interview with each parent
- An interview with the child
- Interviews with collateral sources, such as neighbors, friends, family members, and school personnel
- Observations of parenting time
- Review of medical and educational records
- Review of mental health records pertaining to the parents and the child
- A recommendation for psychological testing
The evaluator has sweeping authority to assess any information that is relevant to the court’s determination, which means you need to be prepared both going into the evaluation and addressing the evaluation’s results in court. Although the results of the evaluation won’t automatically be adopted by the court, you’ll have to have strong arguments if you hope to challenge the evaluator’s ultimate opinion.
Are you nervous about your child custody evaluation?
If so, don’t worry. It’s normal to feel that way. But by educating yourself about the process and thinking about what you can do to portray yourself in the best light possible you can alleviate your concerns. That’s why now is the time to put in the work necessary to protect your time with your child. Hopefully then you can reach a positive outcome to your child custody dispute.