What is a “Custody Evaluation”?
A Custody Evaluation is where a third party conducts a neutral assessment of each parent, other individuals in the home and the children for the purpose of making a recommendation in court.
The Court may order, but is not required to order, a custody evaluation. This is where the Court assigns a private psychologist or mental health expert to determine and to provide recommendations to the Court regarding custody, parenting time and other parenting issues.
Parents can also consent to, or request a custody evaluation on their own. This may be a good idea for you if you have serious concerns about the other parent and you would like a third party to testify to these concerns.
Private custody evaluations are generally more involved than Parenting Conferences and Limited Family Assessments. They often take longer than the other options. However, the mental health provider may do more as well. For example, the mental health provider (if a licensed psychologist) may provide for psychological testing of the parents. This also is sometimes ordered, and usually, you are also ordered to pay for the assessment! The mental health professional may obtain documents from the parties and other sources (for example, prior counseling records, criminal records, etc.). They may interview the parties more often, and may interview the children more often. They may contact people involved in the childrens’ lives. They may also determine whether one of the parties is attempting to alienate the children against the other party.
Sometimes a Parenting Conference or a Limited Family Assessment is sufficient. Sometimes a private custody evaluation may be more helpful. Such evaluations cost generally between $4,000.00 and $6,000.00. Sometimes the costs are divided equally or in some proportion. Other times, one of the parties is ordered to pay the entire amount.
Whether or not to request such an assessment is a strategic decision, and something you should probably talk with an attorney about before you ask the judge to order one. Sometimes, these third party professionals do not end up helping your case! Please give us a call so we can discuss the pros and cons of a family/custody evaluation.