A child custody assessment is a preliminary action that takes place as you navigate your child custody decisions. This is a time to gather data and information to develop a plan before you move forward. Here are some things you need to know about a custody assessment:
What Is a Child Custody Assessment?
Anyone who is going through a contested custody battle may have to go through a custody assessment. A judge will sometimes order an assessment based on your circumstances.
The evaluation is done by a mental health professional who holds certification or training in evaluations. They will collect information by speaking to the children, parents, and anyone who is actively involved in the children's daily lives. The evaluator may also conduct home visits as part of the assessment. Once the assessment is complete, the evaluator will make his or her recommendation to the court. Judges will typically rely heavily on the evaluator's decision when making determinations about custody.
Who Chooses the Evaluator?
Your attorney can contact an evaluator for you. Most family law attorneys will have experience working with child custody evaluators. Both your attorney and the attorney for your former spouse must agree on the evaluator before you can move forward. If you cannot reach an agreement about your evaluator, the court can assign one to you.
What Can You Expect During the Process?
The evaluator will receive a copy of your legal files and any documentation pertaining to your divorce and custody matters before the process begins so the evaluator can be as prepared as possible. The evaluator will call each parent to set up meetings for a formal interview. The evaluator must speak to both parents to avoid any appearance of bias. You will then set up times to have your children interviewed, typically on a different date than your own interviews. They'll conduct further interviews with anyone else who regularly interacts with the children.
Keep in mind that this can be an emotional time for everyone, especially your children. You should not try to coach your children on what to say, particularly if you intend to gain custody of your children. The evaluator has enough training to know when a child has been coached. This can ultimately hurt you in the end. Simply speak truthfully and from the heart and tell your children to do the same.
You can learn more about this process by contacting child custody attorneys.