Child Custody Evaluations—Part 1
In the event that you decide to divorce your spouse and you have children, they likely won’t have to be too involved in the court process. But some parents are unable to work out a child custody solution. That is where child custody evaluations come in. At the Law Offices of Hope E. Fruchtman our Scottsdale, AZ divorce attorneys see some evaluations and this article is to help readers understand evaluations a bit better.
A custody evaluation is a document prepared by an experienced mental health professional, usually a psychologist, giving the judge their opinion about the best visitation arrangement for your family. They generally have special training and experience reviewing family situations and child health. Sometimes a lawyer is assigned by the court to represent the child’s best interests—“guardian ad litem”—but it works the same way as with an evaluator. A custody evaluation is done if the judge orders it or you and your spouse agree to it. Although the evaluator’s recommendation is not the final word, it does have a lot of weight, as it is the only neutral information about your family dynamics and situation.
Choosing the Evaluator
If you and your spouse cannot agree on an evaluator recommended by one of your lawyers, then the court will appoint one or let you choose from two or three of their selections. It is not a good idea to directly question the evaluator when making your selections, as this may negatively reflect on their recommendation, but it is a good idea to get some information about them from your lawyer. You will want to know about the evaluator’s experience in general, and if your family has special issues, whether the evaluator has dealt with similar issues. It is okay to ask whether the evaluator has a history of recommending more to one side than the other. And if you and your spouse cannot agree on an evaluator, you have the option of hiring competing evaluators. However, you may be less inclined to do that when you find out next week what the evaluation process entails.
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