When A Judge Must Decide: What To Know About Custody Evaluations
Emotional issues, like child custody and visitation, tend to be the most contentious when it comes to divorce. When couples are able to work together for the best interest of the child and a create a good, fair workable agreement outside of court, everyone wins. When it's left up to the family court judge, additional help and support is sometimes needed. Child custody evaluators assist judges to determine who should get custody of the minor child, and knowing about this process could prove to be beneficial. If a child custody evaluation is in your future, read on to help you be as prepared as possible.
What are child custody evaluators?
These mental health professionals can be licensed clinical social workers, licensed mental health therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists and from other helping professions. While the requirements vary by state, most must have special training or certifications in the area of parent-child relationships.
Often, parents are allowed to choose their own evaluator from a list of approved ones. If your judge orders an evaluation, you should understand that it is the parent's responsibility to pay the cost, and that cost can be substantial. You should budget for anywhere from about $2000 up to $6000 for an evaluation, which will consist of several interview sessions. Some couples, when learning of the cost, may wish to revisit the issue and try to come to some agreement on their own.
How are evaluations conducted?
Normally, the evaluator will be interviewing your child alone, with the parent and child together and sometimes with the parents alone. You can expect your evaluator to include age-appropriate play into the sessions, all the while observing the interactions between the child and the parent. In some cases, others are interviewed as well, such as pediatricians, close friends and neighbors, school personnel and more. Evaluators who require more information may also order that the child (and sometimes the parent) undergo a full psychological work up, consisting of testing by another professional experienced in this specialized field.
How should you conduct yourself?
Being judged on your parenting ability can be nerve-wracking to say the least, and since child custody is riding on the evaluation, the stakes are very high. Be very careful to stay positive and be yourself, since the evaluator will likely know that no parent is absolutely perfect. In fact, an ability to understand, admit to and amend an undesirable behavior is a very desirable parenting attribute to exhibit.
Keep in extremely close contact with your divorce attorney during the evaluation process. Be sure to alert them at once if something seems to be going wrong with the evaluation. For instance, if you sense that the evaluator has misinterpreted your actions or is showing a bias against you for some reason, let your attorney know immediately. You may be able to get a different, new evaluator, if you act quickly.
If you are involved in a contested child custody case, you need the skills of an experienced family lawyer. Don't delay in seeking support and help to get you successfully through this stressful time. To learn more, contact a law firm like Bray & Johnson Law Firm.