Most people who are facing child custody disputes hope that they can find a way to resolve the matter without resorting to court. The truth of the matter, though, is that the relationship between parents is oftentimes so toxic, or their thoughts on parenting are so far removed from one another, that negotiations are impractical and unproductive. When this happens, the ultimate decision on child custody and visitation is left in the hands of a judge.
This judicial officer probably doesn’t know much about your family, which is a pretty frightening thought. Fortunately, the judge probably isn’t going to make a decision without obtaining more information. Although he or she could seek information from the parents, and evidence eventually is presented from each side, a judge will probably want some sort of assessment from an outside, unbiased party. This is why family law courts often order child custody evaluations.
These evaluations seek to assess the child’s safety, health, wellbeing, and overall best interests. They are conducted by a professional, such as a psychologist or therapist, and may be quite thorough. Although they may be limited in scope, many evaluations analyze pertinent records such as those pertaining to schooling and medical care, and they also involve parental observation to determine how the parent and child interact with one another. The evaluator can also speak to any number of people to get a clearer sense of the family’s dynamics, which includes the child.
Once the evaluation is completed, the evaluator submits a report to the court that contains recommendations. The court may give this report a lot of weight, which means that you need to be prepared to thoroughly analyze it and challenge any aspect of it that you deem inappropriate. You’ll also need to be prepared on the front-end in the event that the court orders an evaluation.
If you feel like you could benefit from a legal strategy as you navigate handling a child custody evaluation, then you might want to speak with an attorney who can help you adequately address the evaluation itself and its accompanying report.