What is a custody evaluation?
In Utah, the courts sometimes order custody evaluations. This can happen in divorce, paternity, modification, or other custody cases. Basically, the court with input from the parties appoints an evaluator. If available, the evaluator will inform the court. Afterward, the evaluator is given standard instructions, and the parties are ordered to cooperate with the custody evaluator. The parties will likely visit with the evaluator, undergo assessments, and have a chance to share concerns. Eventually, the evaluator informs the parties and court that the evaluation is done or soon will be done.
What happens after the custody evaluation?
After the evaluation, the attorneys, parents, and evaluator will have a meeting. At the meeting, the custody evaluator will verbally inform everybody present of his or her conclusions. Often, a mediator becomes present and involved. The parties will be able to take advantage of the ability to mediate in light of the evaluation results. The results of the evaluation can have a number of effects on the mediation. The evaluation might clarify what is important or not important. The evaluation might also serve as a reality check for one or both of the parents. If you do not reach a settlement agreement, the case will eventually go to trial. If requested, the custody evaluator will prepare a written report and will be available to testify at trial.
What happens if the custody evaluator strongly favors or disfavors a particular parent?
As noted above, the custody evaluation can serve as a reality check. The evaluation might discourage one parent from moving forward on the case. On the other hand, it might give the other false confidence. The custody evaluator is not the judge. Also, the recommendation will not necessarily become the order of the court. If there is a custody evaluation in your case, consider hiring an attorney for the meeting. The attorney can advise you about the effect the evaluation has on your case. Also, if you would like to settle based on the evaluation, the attorney can help craft an agreement with which you and the children can live.