When Custody Is In Contention
Who has the responsibility for the care of a child? Making this decision is but one of many emotionally fraught issues for divorcing couples. Custody disputes are best worked out before taking it before a judge, but that doesn't always happen. When the family court judge is tasked with making a custody decision, they increasingly turn to experts in the field. Read on to learn more about child custody evaluations so that you can be prepared when the time comes.
A considerable expense
Any time you must battle it out in court, it ends up costing money. Taking this approach to settling differences means higher legal fees and court costs. That financial obligation, however, may only be added to if your judge orders a child custody evaluation be performed. Evaluations are not "included" in with the usual costs of litigation; it's extra, and it's the parents who are the ones who must bear the costs. A typical child custody evaluation can cost anywhere from around $1,000 to in excess of $2,500 depending on where you live, the extent of the evaluation services, and whether you use a private or court-appointed expert.
What happens at an evaluation?
The licensed evaluation expert, who usually holds an advanced social science degree in addition to other certifications, will conduct a series of interviews with the child and both parents. The interviews are naturally aligned with the age of the child, and with younger children, the interviews might be based on play therapy. The goal of the interviews is to evaluate the relationship between each parent and the child.
More extensive evaluations
The occurrence of parents who are obviously unfit seldom causes a child custody evaluation. The judge will usually be able to identify parents who are unfit using courtroom testimony and the evidence of a parent with, for example, a drug problem or other issues. It is when both parents appear to be fit to parent that an evaluation might be called for.
Sometimes, a few interviews with the child and each parent are not enough. In some cases, the evaluations are extended to other concerned parties and then the pediatrician, school personnel, friends, and neighbors are brought into the process. Additionally, the evaluation expert may consult with other experts to help them form an opinion on custody, such psychologists who can perform testing on children.
To learn more about what to expect with a child custody evaluation, speak to your divorce lawyer.