If custody is a contested issue in your divorce, you may consider seeking a custody evaluation. A custody evaluation, performed by a child custody expert, is used by the court to determine what custodial arrangement is in the best interests of your child.

A child custody expert is a neutral evaluator, usually a licensed psychologist, whose role is to determine the bests interests of the child and to make recommendations to the court regarding custody and parenting time. He or she will conduct a complete evaluation of the parties, conduct psychological testing, interview the parents and the child, and evaluate the interaction between the child and both parents.

The expert is also authorized to review and receive information, records, and reports concerning all parties involved. He or she will prepare a report with recommendations. The expert may have their deposition taken at the request of a parent, and may be subpoenaed to testify at trial.

If you believe a custody evaluation would be beneficial to resolving the custody issues in your case, and your spouse disagrees, you can ask the court to appoint a child custody expert. The court must know why you believe a court-appointed child expert is warranted. For example, you may ask for one because your spouse has substantial mental health issues and you want a custody expert to evaluate fitness for joint custody.

Courts are not obligated to order a custody evaluation nor are they required to receive expert testimony regarding the best interests of the child. It is within your judge’s discretion whether an evaluation and/or expert testimony would be valuable to his or her decision. If there is ample evidence regarding the child’s best interests already before the court, the court may decide a custody evaluation is unnecessary. Or, your judge may find that ordering both parents to undergo evaluations is unreasonably invasive and there aren’t enough facts to warrant such an evaluation. Be clear as to why you are seeking an evaluation and that your spouse’s actions (or inactions) warrant one.

If you think a custody evaluation would be beneficial to your case, contact your Koenig│Dunne family law attorneys to discuss your options. There are pros and cons to these evaluations. Your attorney will be able to advise you as to whether a custody evaluation is appropriate for your circumstances.

Lindsay Belmont