Child custody evaluators may be assigned to your child custody dispute in a litigated divorce. These individuals are generally assigned to help a court make a determination on how custody of minor children should be split between two parents. The purpose of a child custody evaluator is to speak for the child, to consider the child's best interests and to make sure the minor child has a voice. A child custody evaluator may be appointed instead of a guardian ad litem, or in addition to a guardian ad litem, especially in cases where custody issues are hotly contested by both parents.
What Does a Child Custody Evaluator Do?
The specific job and functions of a child custody evaluator varies depending on the situation. However, in most cases, a child custody evaluator will:
- Interview both parents, to get an idea of their mental states and their relationship with the child. Questions may be asked about what type of care he or she has provided to the child and about how close the parent is to the child. A parent may also be questioned about what type of environment and support he can provide for the child after divorce and his or her willingness to make sure the child has continued contact with the other parent and all extended family
- Interview the minor child or children. Whether or not this is done depends on the child's age. Very young children may not be interviewed, while the older a child is, the more say he may have as to which parent he wants to live with. Generally, a child over 12 is considered to be old enough to have a voice in a custody dispute.
- Visit the home and observe parent/child interactions. This will be important in accessing how the parents relate to and interact with the child
- Interview friends and relatives. This can give the child care evaluator a more unbiased picture of who provides the primary care of the child and of what the child's relationship is like with both parents.
Once the child custody evaluator does a thorough examination of all relevant factors, he or she will make a recommendation to the judge on what type of custody arrangement is appropriate. The opinion of child custody evaluators carries great weight within most divorce courts.
If you are involved in a custody dispute and child custody evaluators are helping to determine who will get the kids, you need to get the advice of a lawyer. Your attorney can assist you in preparing for a child custody evaluation and in fighting to make sure you get to keep your kids with you as much as possible.