It’s important to take a holistic approach to any child custody dispute that you may be facing. This is because the court is tasked with entering a child custody and visitation order that best supports the child’s best interests. The best interests determination is all-encompassing, looking at nearly every aspect of your life, your child’s life, and the life of your child’s other parent to determine which sort of arrangement is proper.
Some of these issues, like each parent’s financial stability and history of domestic violence or substance abuse, can be pretty easy to prove, but others are more challenging. For example, when it comes to parental bond with the child and each parent’s ability to meet the child’s daily and special needs, the parents may disagree significantly. This is where a child custody evaluation may prove insightful.
What is the purpose of a child custody evaluation?
The primary purpose of the child custody evaluation is to give the court insight into a child’s life so that the best child custody decision can be made for the child. This means that the evaluator will conduct a rather thorough investigation of the child’s daily life, his or her parents, and each parent’s living environment.
Who conducts a child custody evaluation?
The court or the parties may choose a child custody evaluator, but in most instances these individuals are mental health professionals. This is because much of the evaluation process focuses on how particular child custody arrangements may affect the child’s mental and emotional wellbeing.
What will the evaluator consider?
Pretty much anything is fair game during the child custody evaluation process. The evaluator will likely interview the child and each parent, and he or she will probably observe each parent with the child to better gauge parenting styles and the bond between the child and each parent. External parties might be interviewed, too, in an effort to gain perspective as to each parent’s ability to build and maintain a relationship with the child, ensure his or her success in school, and to keep the child safe.
What you need to remember about your child custody evaluation
If you’re heading into an evaluation, then there are a few things you need to keep in mind, including each of the following:
- The evaluator is not your friend, so be careful of what you say. After all, anything you say and do may be portrayed in a way that is disadvantageous to you.
- Although the evaluator will provide recommendations to the court, that evaluator’s recommendations are not final. Only the court can sign off on what your child custody and visitation order will look like. So be prepared to appropriately address the child custody evaluation in court.
- The child custody evaluator may make recommendations outside the scope of custody and visitation. Those recommendations may include participation in individual or family therapy and parenting classes. Be prepared to tackle these before the judge.
Don’t leave you child custody dispute to chance
Far too often, parents who are in the midst of a child custody dispute cut corners to try to find common ground and quickly resolve the issue before them. Don’t let your desire to finalize your child custody issue force you into an agreement that isn’t right for you child. Instead, thoroughly prepare the arguments that you need to protect your child’s best interests, even if that means requesting or challenging a child custody evaluation. We know that these matters can be extraordinarily stressful, but keep in mind that you can find assistance if you don’t want to face these matters on your own.