Custody Evaluations Lawyers

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What is a Custody Evaluation?

A custody evaluation, sometimes called a parenting evaluation, is a formal court-ordered investigation of a father and mother that attempts to determine who is better suited to care for minor children.  A custody evaluation is typically done at the request of one of the parties during a divorce; although it may also be court ordered.  A custody evaluation involves personal interviews with parents and children by trained evaluators, psychological testing of the parents, and it allows for "collateral contacts" to be interviewed.  The evaluation will provide the court with evidence from which to make a custody decision.

What is a "Collateral Contact" and Why Are They Important?

A collateral contact is anyone who knows you and your spouse, and can provide the evaluator with information about the personal characteristics and parenting abilities of you and your spouse.  A collateral contact can be almost anyone including family friends, teachers, day care providers, employers, or marriage counselors.  Due to perceived bias, family members often do not make good collateral contacts.  

Collateral contacts can be the most important part of a custody evaluation.  Through interviews with collateral contacts, an evaluator can discover if either spouse has behavioral patterns that make them unsuitable parents.   Things like infidelity, drug use, physical abuse, mental cruelty and financial manipulation can all be discovered through these interviews.  Thus, collateral contacts allow you to bring your spouse's behavior into the custody debate.

What is the Typical Process for a Custody Evaluation?

Most custody evaluations follow this general process:

Who Pays for a Custody Evaluation?

Custody evaluations are expensive, ranging from $1,800 -$6,000.  Courts usually assign this cost to the divorcing parents.  Some courts may offer some lower cost alternatives.  

However, if you are fighting for the custody of your children, there are some advantages to offering to pay for the entire custody evaluation.  First, you will show the court that you are serious about the custody of your children.  Second, you will be able to choose who conducts the evaluation.  Finally, because you are paying and setting up the interviews, you can schedule your interview first, before your spouse's.

Do I Need a Lawyer for my Custody Evaluation?

Getting custody of your children is one of the most important battles you will ever fight.  If you are in a custody dispute, you should contact a family law attorney.  Your attorney will guide you through the custody evaluation process and can help you make a favorable impression on the court.  Your attorney will be familiar with your state's procedures for establishing child custody and visitation arrangements and can help protect your relationship with your child.

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Last Modified: 06-30-2010 03:15 PM PDT

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