Child Custody Evaluation

Daughter hugging dad before going off to school

Child custody evaluations are a very common process. Although the purpose of all custody evaluations is to ensure that the needs of your child are met as best they can, it can still be a very nerve-racking ordeal for co-parents to experience. It is important for co-parents to understand the basic details of what goes into a child custody evaluation to prepare for the process.

Important facts about child custody evaluation

Many co-parents do not fully understand what a child custody evaluation is. In general, a child custody evaluation is a process in which a mental health professional evaluates you, your child, and your co-parent to make a recommendation to the court regarding custody and visitation. Child custody evaluations can occur for a number of reasons. The most common reasons for bringing about a child custody evaluation is if co-parents cannot come to an agreement on the details of their custody agreement or if one or both co-parents believe that their current custody agreement is not meeting the needs of their child. In both cases, a family court judge must order a child custody evaluation to be made.

The child custody evaluation process

It is important to fully understand that the mental health professional observing you and your family is simply trying to determine what would be in the best interest of your child. In order for the professional to make this determination they will typically use the following guidelines or something similar:

  • They will conduct multiple interviews with each co-parent separately.
  • They will conduct multiple interviews with the child involved in the case.
  • They will observe each co-parent as they interact with the child either at the office or in the home setting.
  • They may conduct interviews with others involved with the family such as teachers, health care providers, and so on.
  • They may choose to undergo psychological testing on anyone in the family.
  • They will also review previous court and legal activity regarding the divorce and custody case.

Based on the information that is gathered from these observations the evaluator will generate a report to pass along to the judge hearing the case. This report will include all of their findings and recommendations regarding how custody should be awarded.

Preparing for a child custody evaluation

Undergoing a child custody evaluation is very stressful for most co-parents. Even if you are an exceptional parent to your child your nervousness may affect your actions during an evaluation. Here are some tips to reduce your stress during this process:

  • Be cooperative with the evaluator. Even though you may oppose the child custody evaluation it is important to cooperate so that the evaluator does not get the wrong impression.
  • Many co-parents believe it is helpful to treat this process like a job interview. Be punctual, dress appropriately, be honest, and also be confident.
  • Be prepared and organized beforehand. It is likely that your evaluator will request your case documents at some point during the evaluation.
  • Make sure that you are holding the best interest of your child above all else. Showing that you make your child a priority over other things is the most important of scoring well in your evaluation.

No matter the outcome of your child custody evaluation remember that the purpose is always to ensure that your child is receiving the best possible custody agreement.