If you are involved in a child custody case for parenting time or legal decision-making in Arizona, it’s important to have an understanding of what to expect. These cases are serious, and you don’t want to make any mistakes since they involve your children. Therefore, working with a family law specialist on an AZ child custody evaluation is always recommended.
One of the terms that you may hear during your case is “child custody evaluation”, and you might be wondering what it entails and why it can be important. Simply put, the evaluations bring in a third party to look into various matters regarding the children when parents are unable to reach agreements.
When Is a Child Custody Evaluation Needed?
Keep in mind that not all cases will need to go through a child custody evaluation. When both the parents can agree on the terms of the parenting arrangements with the children, there is no need. Many parents will come to agreements on their own, as they know what will work best for the children and their schedules.
Typically, the only time one of these evaluations will be needed is when one or both of the parents are accused of certain types of behavior. This includes child abuse, domestic violence, or substance abuse. It could also be required in those cases where the parents are often fighting and disagreeing over the big decisions for the child. These major decisions would include things such as schooling and the division of parenting time.
Cases like those mentioned above tend to have a substantial amount of conflict, which is bad for everyone involved. There also tends to be a lot of evidence that backs up cases like this, such as medical records, police reports, and witnesses. In these cases, a judge might want there to be a child custody evaluation, so they can get information from an expert on what should be done. The judge will feel more comfortable issuing court orders once they have information from an expert.
Who Handles the Evaluations?
Most of the time, child custody evaluations will be done by mental health professionals, such as psychiatrists or psychologists. Parents can choose the mental health experts needed to conduct the evaluation. However, they should keep in mind that the professional is not going to be loyal to either of the parents. They will only be loyal to ensuring they do what is best for the children.
Additionally, the court often has people who can provide a limited assessment. This is a cheaper alternative than going through a full AZ child custody evaluation. Sometimes, the judge will suggest that you have one of these evaluations, as it can help to clear up the sometimes troubled and confusing arguments being made by each of the spouses.
What to Expect in the Evaluation
When going through the evaluation, the experts are required to investigate each of the factors for custody put forth in ARS 25-403. The mental health professionals will interview both of the parents. They will also interview the children and others who have regular contact with the children or who may have information deemed important for the evaluation.
During these cases, parents will often provide documentation to help with the evaluation. All of this information will be reviewed, as well.
Some of the types of documentation that could be included on this list include school records, medical records and reports, police reports, and communication between the parents that could be relevant to the evaluation.
Many different types of documentation could be included. You can speak with your attorney to get a better idea of the types of information that may be needed. The expert needs to have access to all of the info needed to ensure they can write a thorough report.
Parents will often undergo psychological tests in these evaluations. The tests are provided to see whether either of the parents may have psychological issues that could affect their capability as a parent or if it could affect their ability to co-parent and work with their ex.
These tests can also be used as a means to see whether the results are consistent with what the parents have said about one another during the case. For example, some parents might claim that their ex has mental health problems. Testing can help to see whether either of them is dishonest.
Creating the Report
After the investigation and testing have been completed, the evaluator will create a report that includes all of the details of what was found. It will include a list of the documents reviewed, summaries from witnesses, and summaries of psychological tests. It will also include their expert opinion on what the judge may want to do in this case.
The expert does not have the final say in the matter. They are simply giving their expert opinion to the judge, who will review the information and the suggestions before making their decision. Ultimately, it will all be up to the judge.
Often, the judge will listen to the opinion of the experts, as long as they truly believe that it is what is going to be best for the kids.
Work with an Attorney
Going through a child custody case is scary, especially if you find out that you are going to be subject to a child custody evaluation. It doesn’t have to be quite so frightening, though. Talk with an attorney about the case. They can let you know what to expect and can help to alleviate your fears.
Just because you have to go through an AZ child custody evaluation doesn’t mean it is the end of the world. It can be a good thing. Remember, it’s all about doing what’s right for the kids.
Still, you want to have someone on your side making sure you and your interests are properly represented. This is very true if you have an ex who is determined to drag your name through the mud and make you look like a troubled parent.