If you ever wanted to know the 411 about child custody evaluations, here is a great article on the basics:
In family law cases, the central focus in all child custody and parenting decisions is the best interests of the child. Ideally, parents should consult with one another and reach those decisions together. But it is not always clear what, exactly, is best for a child. What if the parents can’t agree?
Generally, if the parties to a divorce agree to child custody arrangements, the court will likely approve those arrangements and enter an order ratifying the parties’ agreement. However, if the parents are unable to work things out between themselves with the help of their lawyers and/or their mediator, the court must determine what is in the best interests of the child and make a ruling to settle the controversy. One of the chief tools the judge may rely on to make his or her decision is a child custody evaluation. Various third party professionals (a Guardian Ad Litem, a psychologist, a social investigator, or a combination of same) may become involved to conduct an investigation and make recommendations to the parties and/or the court as to what is in the child’s best interests.
What to Expect In a Custody Evaluation
A child custody evaluation typically involves interviews, observations and examinations of all parties involved in the divorce. A custody evaluator — often a psychologist, but sometimes another type of mental health professional — will spend time with you, your soon-to-be ex-spouse, and your children, and will frequently speak to collateral sources such as doctors, mental health professionals treating either party or the child, friends, family members, teachers or child care providers, those sharing residences with either party, or others.
What is the custody evaluator looking for?
A combination of factors come into play, including the evaluator’s assessment of both you and your spouse’s parenting skills, your potential for getting along with your former partner after the divorce is final, any indication of drug or alcohol abuse, each child’s bond with each parent, and the health and well being of each child, both physical and mental. A psychological evaluation, which includes interviews by a psychologist and written testing, may or may not be part of the investigation or evaluation.
A Word of Caution
Child custody evaluators are not working for either spouse; they are working to develop a picture of what they will recommend to be in the best interests of the child. While most custody evaluators do the best they can, there are no generally agreed-upon scientific standards for determining what makes a “good parent.”
You should be cautious about what you say to a child custody evaluator. A custody evaluator’s recommendation to the judge could impact your relationship with your children for years to come.
For more information on child custody evaluations, child custody or visitation or divorce, contact an Orange County divorce lawyer today!