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Understanding Child Custody Evaluations

It is very possible that spouses can agree on a child custody arrangement for themselves, and perhaps they can reach this agreement through mediation. There are other times, however, when the case has to go to court in order for a judge to determine how custody will be awarded. A judge will likely prompt a child custody evaluation, though couples can ask for one too. The evaluation is written by an evaluator, who gives his or her judgment on what would be best for the child as regards custody and visitation. The judge would then go over this opinion to make a ruling. Sometimes, a "guardian ad litem" will be used instead, that is, an attorney who represents the child can make a recommendation to the judge regarding custody. The evaluation process will be remarkably similar, however, whoever it is that does the evaluating.

Who is the custody evaluator? This will likely be a psychologist, though it could be another mental health professional who is qualified to recommend to a judge what a child's best interests are. While it is far from guaranteed that what the evaluator says will determine a ruling, a judge may rely a great deal on the evaluation. It likely represents the most objective data available on a family.

In the evaluation process, it is possible that you and the other parent will have a say in who is the evaluator. This could mean that the court lets you choose from a selection of three evaluators, or that you get to reject someone from the court's list of evaluators. If you want a private evaluator, or if each parent wants to pick their own evaluator, then this will come with a considerable price tag. It could cost around one or two thousand dollars if a court orders and chooses an evaluator; it could be at least $10,000 to hire an evaluator of your own.

Here is how the typical evaluation would go: The evaluator would set up times to interview you as well as your spouse, as much as three different times. Then each child would be interviewed one or two times. An evaluator will also want to each child around each parent, assessing how they relate and get along. The evaluator will also want to examine your case file and talk with teachers, doctors, etc. Some evaluators will conduct psychological testing, or they will ask for these tests to be completed (especially in the case of a guardian ad litem).

If you have any issues with the evaluator, such as a suspected bias on their part, then you need to speak up before the report is finished. A complaint will look poorly in light of an evaluation that is unfavorable to you. You will want to voice apprehensions to your attorney as soon as possible. After all, the evaluation can deal with who gets custody and how visitation will work. There can also be recommendations about therapy, about how you and your spouse need to work through issues, and how to overcome problems such as substance abuse. If your child is considerably young, then an evaluator may further suggest that another evaluation be conducted at a certain future date.

You can either fight the evaluation in court, or agree to it so as to save you and your child further stress-filled delays in moving on. You can discuss your options with an experienced divorce lawyer. If you are facing a divorce, especially one that involves child custody, then you desperately need to find the best Long Island divorce attorney that you can. Contact the Meyers Law Group, P.C. to find out what a compassionate and dedicated lawyer may be able to do for you.