Child Custody Evaluation: What You Should Know
Parents going through the process of divorce normally have to seek the opinion of a judge on how to share parenting responsibilities if there are children involved. Even though many divorcing couples are capable of determining reliable custody settlement agreements without going to court, some still need a legal verdict from a judge. Parents who cannot seem to agree on child custody responsibilities should be ready to go through a custody evaluation process ordered by a judge which is meant to determine how they will share parental responsibilities considering the child’s best interests.
A custody evaluator is responsible for assessing both parents and compiling a legal report referred to as a child custody evaluation report. This report recommends the best fit parent to get custody of the child. Child custody evaluators are professionals in the mental health industry with experience in child psychology. The entire process of child custody evaluation can take up to a few weeks to be completed especially in complicated divorce cases. It involves the child custody evaluator finding and gathering all the necessary data about the divorce case on both parents. The child custody evaluator then meets up individually with the children of the divorcing couple to interview them and ensure that they are not being forced to agree to certain things by either of the parents.
A custody evaluation is needed when a divorcing couple cannot seem to agree with each other even after going through mediation and is ordered by a judge. A child custody evaluation is necessary when it comes to informing the court on the best type of arrangement for the children’s best interests. Divorcing couples that already have the case in court might be assigned a specific custody evaluator by a judge. In other instances, a divorcing couple can simply find a custody evaluator by themselves recommended by a professional attorney. In either case, the divorcing couple should make time to determine the evaluator’s professional history of recommending custody. This research process will also help the couple determine if the child custody evaluator has the capacity to work on unique cases such as those involving special children.
The evaluation process often involves psychological testing and interviewing of both the parents and children involved. In most cases, the child custody evaluator does the testing and assessments by themselves. In other cases, they might decide to let a more qualified professional handle the assessments on their behalf as they tackle other issues concerning the case. A child custody evaluator might also need to meet and interview teachers, close family friends, extended family members, and babysitters to get a better picture of the living situation of the children. The process of evaluation can also include examining school reports and health records. After gathering all the necessary information and evidence, a child custody evaluator recommends to the court whether the divorcing parents should be allowed shared joint custody or if one parent should be granted primary legal custody over the children. Even though a judge is not required to follow the recommendations of a custody child evaluator, the recommendations still hold a lot of weight in court and heavily influence the final decision of the judge.