When you and your spouse (or child’s other parent) are unable to reach a decision about the custody of your child, the family law judge may order a custody evaluation. A custody evaluation is a process during which a trained professional (typically a psychologist or psychiatrist) will make a recommendation to the family law judge regarding the allocation of significant decision-making authority and parenting time (visitation) after meeting with the parents and the child and evaluating any other available and relevant information.
The custody evaluator is a professional trained in the field of psychology or psychiatry who has experience with child custody. The evaluator may be chosen by the parties or the judge depending on the circumstances. The evaluator is a neutral party and may not have had a past or current treatment relationship with any of the parties. The parents are typically ordered to pay for the cost of the evaluation, which can be up to several thousand dollars.
There is no confidentiality or privilege. The custody evaluator is not required to keep your conversations confidential. Anything you share or disclose to the evaluator may be shared with the family law judge in your case.
The custody evaluator may request several meetings with you, your spouse and your child or children. She may also observe you with your child, including an observation in your home. In some circumstances, she may conduct psychological testing. She can review any papers submitted to the court in your case. She may also interview other adults that have contact with your child, such as teachers, doctors, family members, dentists and child care providers.
The custody evaluator will form an opinion as to who should have significant decision-making authority (custody) for your child and propose a parenting time schedule. The opinion will likely be submitted to the family law court in writing. The evaluator will use the best interests of the child standard in forming her opinion. The judge will likely give the evaluator’s opinion substantial weight, but it is not binding. The evaluator may be called as a witness at trial and examined by either party.
If you are looking for an experienced litigator, contact us today to request a custody evaluation consultation.
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