Child Custody Evaluation
The judge deciding your case may order a custody evaluation. Usually, the custody evaluation is conducted by a psychologist who evaluates both parents as well as the children, and makes specific custody and visitation recommendations to the court. The cost of child custody evaluations can vary significantly depending on where you live from $3,000 to $10,000. The evaluator should be neutral and should not have been a former therapist for either party or the child. Generally, things you tell a custody evaluator are not confidential and are not privileged communications.
The evaluator is assisting the court in making a determination of the best interest of the children. The evaluator will generally:
- Conduct one or more interviews of each child
- Conduct one or more interviews of each parent
- May visit the home of each parent
- May administer psychological testing
- May review previous court orders
- May interview potential witnesses, including physicians, teachers, day care providers and babysitters
The evaluator will generally place their recommendations in writing. Many evaluators will make specific recommendations and findings regarding the “custody factors,” such as:
- Emotional ties and bonds between siblings, half-siblings and stepsiblings in the same residence of the children
- The quality of each parent’s relationship with the child
- Any evidence of substance abuse by either parent
- The health education and special needs of the child
- Each parent’s employment schedule and/or limitations in parenting the child
- Each parent’s involvement in the child’s educational, social and extracurricular activities
- Any evidence of abuse or violence
What Can You Do To Prepare For The Custody Evaluation?
Custody evaluators are professionals and are trained to determine the credibility of the parties and if any manipulation or coaching is occurring. Custody evaluators expect you to be nervous and by following the basic guidelines, you can facilitate versus hamper the process:
- Communicate openly with your attorney regarding your children, yourself and your spouse.
- Provide information to your attorney regarding witnesses and assist the attorney in organizing this information in a form suitable for the evaluator.
- Be on time and dress neatly for the evaluation.
- Communicate your knowledge regarding the children’s needs, interests and desires in a clear and concise fashion to the evaluator.
- Respond promptly and calmly to the evaluator’s request. Keep in mind that just because your husband or wife may be “bad spouse,” it does not necessarily mean that they are a bad parent.
- Do not call the evaluator repeatedly.
- Do not coach or attempt to coach your children.
Whether the court uses a guardian ad litem (GAL) or a custody evaluator, keep in mind that the courts tend to give significant weight to these recommendations. To discuss custody evaluation with one of our family law attorneys, send us an email or call Coleman, Chambers & Rogers, LLP, at 678-601-2495.