In a divorce case, it can sometimes be difficult to determine child custody. In such cases, the judge may appoint a professional child custody evaluator to help determine custody. A child custody evaluator is a neutral professional who is trained to analyze the various factors leading to a child custody determination.  In general the evaluator is required to work according the “child’s best interest” standard.  

Depending on the specific facts of each divorce case, the judge may appoint a specific type of child custody evaluators. In general there are three types of professional child custody evaluators:

  • Psychologists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Social workers

For example, if the child’s emotional and psychological needs are at issue, the court may choose to appoint a psychologist to intervene in the custody hearings. 

Who Decides Which Child Custody Evaluator to Use?

In most cases it is the judge who appoints the child custody evaluator. The judge’s choice of professionals will depend on the specific issues at stake in the custody hearing.

In limited circumstances, the judge will sometimes let each party present a list of evaluators who can potentially serve as mediators. If that is the case, it is very important that the evaluators presented be fully certified and qualified according to state standards.  They should have a detailed understanding of the various issues involved in child custody determination, including the effects of divorce on the child, and how to recognize symptoms of child abuse. 

What If I Don’t Agree with the Opinion of a Child Custody Evaluator?

If you don’t agree with the opinions or conclusions of a professional child custody evaluator, you may be able to challenge the results of their analysis. For example, the following circumstances may allow you to challenge the findings of a custody evaluator: 

  • The custody arrangement would not further the child’s best interests
  • The child custody evaluator lacked the proper credentials or experience to render such a decision
  • The evaluator was biased in their analysis
  • The evaluator engaged in fraud or misconduct in order to reach their conclusions

Fraud or abuse of legal proceedings in a custody determination can be very detrimental for the upbringing of the child or children who are involved. For this reason it is very important that you ensure that any evaluator has the proper credentials for their task. 

If you are unsure of the background of a potential evaluator, you should request that the judge appoint a different professional. You may even be able to file suit against a child custody evaluator who has abused child custody regulations of your state. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Child Custody Evaluation?

If you are involved in proceedings that require the use of a professional custody evaluator, you may wish to consult with a child custody lawyer for further advice. Your attorney can be present during the evaluation negotiations to make sure that the best interests of the child are focused on.