Child custody disputes can be heart-wrenching. You might see your child struggle to cope with the terms of seeing one parent less often than normal or trying to cope with the realities of living in two households. Their entire perception of stability can be shaken. But you and your child will get through these hard times and obtain newfound stability. Everyone has an interest in ensuring that that new reality supports your child’s best interests, but not everyone agrees about what those best interests are or how they’re supported. That’s one reason why courts often order child custody evaluations.
The basics of a child custody evaluation
The purpose of a child custody evaluation is to give the court an unbiased perspective of the family’s dynamic so that it can better determine what kind of child custody and visitation arrangement best supports the child’s best interests. These evaluations always include interviews with the parents, usually separately, so that more information can be gathered about the child and each parent’s relationship with the child.
Questions are usually asked in a way that tracks the law on child custody determination. Therefore, you and your child’s other parent will probably be asked about:
- How love and affection is shown to the child
- Ability to provide for the child’s basic needs
- Where the child has been living, its appropriateness, and the importance of maintaining it
- The mental and physical health of the parties involved
- Any history of domestic violence
- Each parent’s willingness to foster a relationship between the child and the noncustodial parent
- The moral fitness of each parent
The evaluator, who is appointed by the court, may also assess pertinent records such as those pertaining to medical conditions and schooling. The child will probably be interviewed, too.
Dealing with the legalities of a child custody evaluation
Once completed, the evaluator will draft a report for filing with the court. This report will lay out all of the information gathered and make a recommendation as to child custody and visitation. This recommendation isn’t binding on the court, but it can carry significant weight.
That’s why it’s important that you know how to prepare for one of these evaluations and how to either use it to your advantage or minimize its impact in court. To learn more about how to do that, consider reaching out to an experienced family law professional.