What is a Custody Evaluation?

When parents separate, divorce, or otherwise split up, custody can become a hotly disputed issue. Custody and visitation will be disputed, as will the question of which parent should make what parenting decisions. If the parents cannot agree, the court will have to decide. Utah judges sometimes rely on custody evaluations to help them make custody decisions. If the judge in your case orders an evaluation, you will need to cooperate.

What is a custody evaluation?

Simply put, a professional evaluator studies the children and parents and then makes a custody recommendation to the court. The evaluator can be a social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist, or marriage and family, therapist. The evaluator can rely on interviews, questionnaires, psychological tests, and observation of the parents and children. Additionally, the evaluator might review whatever materials or documents the parents wish to provide. The custody evaluator is supposed to consider the child’s needs and the child’s wishes. Also, the evaluator should consider the existing relationships between the parents and children and the parents’ parenting abilities.

Once the custody evaluator has finished evaluating the situation, he or she will meet with the parents. At that meeting, the parents will learn about the evaluator’s recommendations and observations. Either parent may request a written report. Often, the evaluator’s recommendation encourages settlement of the case. But, if not, the parties can go to trial, and the custody evaluator may testify as an expert witness.

How does one obtain a favorable evaluation?

The best way to obtain a favorable evaluation is to be a good parent who cooperates with the other parent. Other blog posts from our site go into the subject of how to be and prove that you are a good parent.

However, even good parents can get poor evaluations. So, even good parents will want to appropriately prepare for the evaluation. When interacting with the evaluator, it is best, to be honest, calm, and rational. Do not try to pass yourself off as something you are not. Always focus on what is most important, and remember that sometimes less is more. If you perceive problems with the other parent, focus on facts and the evidence. Be objective. Your time with the evaluator is not a good time to bash the other parent. Rather, the focus should be on what the children have experienced and what they need.

At Christensen Law, we can help you with your custody case. If a custody evaluation is involved, we can advise you further and tailor our advice to your situation.