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Custody Evaluations in Divorce

What is Child Custody Evaluation?

Jake, 35 and Sheryll, 28 could just not reconcile with the visitation and custody plans as laid down by their divorce custody mediator. Their 7-year old marriage was over, but the child custody battle after their divorce over son Aaron, 4, was far from it. It was then that the court stepped in and ordered them to get involved with a child custody evaluator and formally participate in custody evaluation.

Who is a Child Custody Evaluator?

A custody evaluator is a mental health expert who assesses and evaluates the psychological conditions of the family in which the child is expected to be raised after the divorce. Through his/her psychological evaluation of the case in hand, he/she then recommends a parenting plan or other concerning visitation schedules to the concerned judge. The latter may take the advises of the custody evaluator while awarding custodian rights/visitation rights to the parents in a child custody case.

How is Child Custody Evaluation different from Custody Mediation?

When custody mediation fails, custody evaluation tries to offer a better solution.

In custody mediation, a third neutral party or the mediator enables divorcing parents to develop a “parenting plan” on visitations and other legal issues concerning the child. When such mediation and other reconciliatory processes do not satisfy the divorced parents, the court orders them to take the help of a custody evaluator.

How to choose the Child Custody Evaluator?

In most of the cases, the lawyers fighting the case or the judge ruling upon the verdict recommend a custody evaluator. It may be noted that the divorced partners who are fighting for the child custody may seek answers regarding the proficiency of the evaluator, his/her experience in handling similar cases and of course, the fee paid to the evaluator. It is significant to note that though an experienced evaluator may need to be paid more his recommendations would indeed be “in the best interests of the child”.

What does a Child Evaluator precisely do?

Child custody evaluators primarily focus on gathering as much information about the divorced parents, their families and their relationships with their child. They then assess the capability or incapability of a parent for custodian rights/visitation rights of their child. As a next step, they make requisite recommendations to the ruling judge, which the judge may make use of during the final verdict.

Custody evaluations are carried out using almost all or a majority of the below mentioned techniques:
  • Interviewing the divorced parents individually
  • Interviewing and interacting with the child
  • Examining individual parent-child relationship.
  • Gathering information from teachers, therapists, child care nannies etc.
  • Acquiring a fair idea about the court rulings, written documents etc which concern the child custody case.
To gather the required information, a child evaluator may use questionnaires, conduct psychological tests, pay house-visits, and interact with neighbors and other friends of the parents and the child as well.

The recommendations made by the child custody evaluator may range from changing the “bringing up” styles of the child, providing a resourceful parenting plan, to final custody rights of the child. Custody child evaluation intends ex-spouses to work together for the benefit of the child and need not be a “I win-you lose” situation at all. After all, the concerning factor is the child for whose benefit the recommendations are made.

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