A child custody dispute can be hotly contested, with each parent arguing that they know what is best for their child. Although the hope is that you and your child’s other parent will be able to hash out your differences and come to an agreement on a child custody and visitation arrangement that best supports your child’s best interests, sometimes that just isn’t possible.
Under these circumstances, your case will head to court where the judge will ultimately decide what is best for the child. It can be nerve wracking to leave such a big decision in the hands of someone who doesn’t know you, your child, and your family dynamics, but that’s one reason why the court in these situations often orders a child custody evaluation.
What is a child custody evaluation?
This evaluation is ordered by the court to get an outside perspective on the family’s dynamics and to obtain an objective recommendation as to what sort of custody and visitation arrangement is best for the child. The individual who conducts the evaluation is typically a psychologist or some other type of mental health professional. The evaluation takes a couple of months to complete and results in a formal report being submitted to the court.
What does a child custody evaluation entail?
A child custody evaluation is meant to be thorough. In most instances, it includes each of the following:
- Interviews with each parent and the child. These interviews could be conducted separately, together or both.
- Observations of each parent’s time with the child to gauge the bond between each parent and the child and to assess parenting abilities.
- Interviews with those who know the parents and the child, such as teachers, medical professionals, and daycare providers.
- An assessment of your child’s educational, medical, and mental health records to identify any needs that your child may have.
- An analysis of any documents that may be indicative of safety issues in either parent’s home, such as police reports and social services records.
- An analysis of each parent’s mental health, which may include a request for a parent to undergo a psychological evaluation.
As you can see, the evaluation is comprehensive, which is important so that the court has a clear picture of the family’s dynamics. This is why the court often gives the child custody evaluator’s report a lot of weight when making its determination on custody and visitation.
Preparing for the evaluation and its report
As you prepare to navigate your custody evaluation, remember to be yourself and be honest. Don’t bash the other parent, and always present as respectful and open. Have activities planned for your child when the evaluator is going to observe parenting time so that you can demonstrate the strength of your relationship with your kid.
Also, it’s important to know that the evaluator’s report, although powerful, isn’t everything in your case. Therefore, you should still be prepared to present evidence that supports your position or contradicts the evaluator’s report, if you need to do so.
An attorney may be able to help you argue for your child’s best interests
There’s a lot to take into consideration as you tackle your child custody dispute. But this isn’t a fight that you have to face alone. Instead, you can work closely with a legal team that is well-versed in handling these types of matters. By doing so, you can put your mind at ease knowing that you’ll be advancing the best legal arguments possible under the circumstances.
So, if you want to learn more about how to approach your case, please consider reaching out to a legal team that you think is right for you and your child’s best interests.