What is a Custody Evaluator?
A custody evaluator is a mental health professional who makes a written recommendation to the Court as to what custody-visitation arrangement would be in the best interests of the children involved.
Custody evaluations are most often utilized in highly contested custody disputes. In the course of their investigation, a custody evaluator will interview both parents, observe the children with each of the parents, conduct age-appropriate interviews with the children, and interview other significant people such as teachers, daycare providers, healthcare providers, extended family members and friends. It is not unusual for the professional to administer some standard psychological tests. It may also be helpful to the evaluator to visit the child's home or to visit the place where the child may live.
In the interest of objectivity, the professional selected to conduct the custody evaluation should not be a person who has previously treated any member of the family. It is also recommended that each party pay one-half the costs of the custody evaluation, to avoid the appearance that the professional may be biased towards the parent who paid the fee.
A well drafted report will contain a summary of the information collected, an assessment of the family and the needs of the children and will also recommend a custody/visitation arrangement. The custody evaluator's recommendation is just one factor that the Court will take into consideration when deciding what custody/visitation arrangement is in the children's long range best interests.