A custody evaluation is a process that, through careful research and interviews, produces a report of expert recommendations for custody and visitation of children whose whose parents are divorcing. The typical custody evaluation consists of the following steps in order to understand the full family dynamic:
- Two or three interviews with each parent
- Two or three interviews with each child
- Observation of parental interaction with each child in the office and potentially at home
- Psychological testing. Most psychometric measures tend to fall within the following categories: cognitive functioning tests, objective personality tests, projective personality tests, and parenting assessment tests. A comprehensive evaluation will contain several tests from numerous categories.
- Review of important court papers
- Interviews with people like teachers, pediatricians and other care providers as necessary
Once the evaluation process is complete, the evaluator will issue a report. Most evaluators will specifically address concerns raised by each parent in making recommendations.
The final custody and visitation recommendation is based on factors such as:
- The quality of each parent’s relationship to each child
- The relationship between the parents and their ability or willingness to support their children's ongoing relationships with the other parent
- The parenting skills and capacity of each parent
- Each parent’s psychological health, including any drug or alcohol abuse
- The children's psychological health
- Any evidence of abuse or violence
Custody evaluations can be a stressful process for parents. Consider these helpful guidelines to make the process as manageable as possible:
Understand the evaluator’s role. The evaluator is an independent and impartial expert whose whose job is to objectively assess what is best for your children. They are not your therapist or advocate, nor will they take a "side". Their only role is to advise what arrangement supports the safety and well being of your children.
It’s okay to be emotional. Your evaluator will understand. But avoid losing control, so much that you can not answer questions and express yourself clearly. If you find yourself unable to continue, take a moment to collect yourself, and focus again on the task at hand.
Have your documents in order. You may need to provide the names and contact information for additional people important to the evaluation process, including teachers, physicians and other caregivers. School reports and other documents may be requested as well.
You will be asked a lot of questions. This is normal. If you are confused about a question, ask for clarification. If necessary, take your time to answer.
We encourage proactive parenting. If you have any questions about your child’s development, feel free to contact us.