A child custody evaluation is a process by which a provider works with your family to assess the best interests of a child in terms of custody arrangements. These evaluations are often required when a couple is divorcing and cannot come to an agreement regarding child custody.
Participation in a child custody evaluation is intended to paint a clear picture of your family and to allow the provider to make a well-informed recommendation for child custody arrangements to the judge. Your provider will not determine fault for your divorce or make the final decision about custody arrangements – those are only decided upon by the judge.
What You Can Expect During a Child Custody Evaluation
Child custody evaluations are a multi-part process and will take multiple sessions and observations to complete. This is to ensure that an accurate recommendation is provided to the judge. There are several different components that you can expect during this process:
Interviews: During a child custody evaluation, the provider will conduct multiple interviews. The provider will interview you, your spouse, and your child. Some interviews will be completed individually, but you should expect at least some conjoint interviews with your spouse. It is important that you prepare and try to set aside your feelings towards your spouse in the best interest of establishing a good custody plan for your child.
Information Gathering: The provider will need other forms of information in order to make an accurate recommendation. You can expect the following types of requests: Access to observing you and your child together; copies of reports or records, such as police reports, school attendance reports, or medical history; and, permission to speak to other parties who may be able to share insight regarding your parenting and the best way to meet the needs of your child, including extended family, family friends, or your child’s teacher.
Psychological Testing: In some circumstances, your provider may ask that you complete some form of psychological testing, which may include pen and paper assessments, interviews, or other evaluation methods. If you have a question about the purpose of a psychological test, share it with your provider. It is important to answer assessment questions as accurately and honestly as possible – this ensures your provider has a clear picture of your functioning.