Child custody is one of the most contentious issues in a divorce. Parents are given an opportunity to reach a custody agreement on their own, but if they are unable to do so, the court will get involved. If the issue goes to court, the judge has the authority to order a child custody evaluation. What is a child custody evaluation? How can it affect the outcome of your case? Here’s what you should know about child custody evaluations:
A child custody evaluation helps a judge determine what custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child. If an evaluation is ordered, either the court or the parents will select a mental health professional that specializes in these cases to perform the evaluation.
The evaluator will review documentation related to the custody case, meet with the parents and children, and interview other close family members and friends. The evaluator’s goal is to gather as much information as possible about the relationship between the children and each of their parents.
It can take months for a mental health professional to complete an evaluation. Once the evaluation is complete, the evaluator will prepare a report and submit it to the court.
The report will include a summary of the evaluator’s findings and observations. The evaluator will then tell the court which child custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child based on their findings and observations. For example, the evaluator may decide that it is in the child’s best interests to live primarily with the mother. The report may also recommend that the court award the father visitation rights as part of the agreement.
If your child custody case goes to trial, the evaluator can be called to the stand to answer questions about his report. Both parties are allowed to ask the evaluator questions during this stage of the trial.
Ultimately, it is the judge and not the evaluator who gets to decide which type of custody arrangement is best. The judge does not need to follow the evaluator’s advice when making custody decisions. But, the judge typically does take these recommendations into consideration when making a final decision.
Are you involved in a child custody dispute? If so, Williams Law Group, LLC can help. Our skilled family law attorneys will thoroughly prepare you for a child custody evaluation so you know what to expect. Call our office at (908) 738-8366, email us at email@example.com, or contact us through our confidential online form to schedule a consultation.