Going through a child custody dispute can be enormously stressful. After all, the outcome can impact the amount of time that you get to spend with your kid, what your relationship with them looks like, and how your child’s safety and well-being will be impacted. The stakes are high, which is why you need to make sure that you approach your child custody matters with diligence, assertiveness and timeliness.
But given the complex and often contentious nature of these matters, a court may not feel like it has the unbiased information that it needs to render a child custody determination that’s in the child’s best interest. Or, alternatively, there may be so much information presented that the court has a hard time deciding what outcome is best for the child. This is when a child custody evaluation may be ordered.
What is a child custody evaluation?
A child custody evaluation is an assessment of the child and the family dynamics at play in order to provide the court with a through, unbiased, professional recommendation as to what sort of child custody arrangement is best for the child. These assessments are typically conducted by mental health professionals, such as psychiatrists or psychologists, who bring a lot of expertise to the table. Sometimes, though, more limited assessments are conducted by social workers.
What goes into a child custody evaluation?
Remember, this evaluation is supposed to be comprehensive. As a result, the evaluator is supposed to address all of the best interest factors identified by state law. To do so, the evaluator in your case will likely do each of the following:
- Interview both parents
- Interview the child
- Interview others who may have pertinent information, such as medical professionals and school personnel
- Review educational and medical records
- Observe parenting time with each parent
- Conduct psychological testing on the parents
The psychological testing that’s conducted can have several purposes, but chief among them is to determine if there are any limitations on the parent’s ability to care for the child and to figure out which parent’s account is accurate when conflicting, but highly relevant, claims are made.
What happens once the evaluation is completed?
Once the evaluation is complete, the evaluator will write up a report that is then submitted to the court. Although the court is not required to abide by the recommendations made in the custody evaluation, judges often give it significant weight. After all, the evaluation will provide summaries of interviews and observations, as well as test results.
Hopefully, the evaluation’s recommendations will align with your position. But even if they don’t, you can still challenge the validity of the report’s recommendations. It may be challenging to do, but if you can show bias or some evidence that wasn’t taken into account during the evaluation, you might be in a strong position to advocate for your position despite the evaluation’s outcome.
Confidently navigate your child custody dispute
A poorly handled child custody dispute can lead to poor outcomes for your child and your relationship with them. Therefore, you should be as diligent as possible when building your case, keeping your eye on addressing the best interest factors that are laid out in state law.
If you think that you could benefit from some assistance in that regard, you might want to consider speaking with an attorney who is experienced in handling these matters. That way, you’ll know that your position will be aggressively advocated for, and that the legal arguments presented will be strongly based on the law and the