Child Custody Evaluations
When parents are not able to agree on the terms and conditions of their custody arrangements, the custody court must decide these issues. Sometimes a judge will order a child custody evaluation to help the court make the best decisions for the child and sometimes a parent will obtain a custody evaluation to help them with their custody case in court. A child custody evaluation is generally done by a social worker or psychologist. The professional assesses the parental fitness of the mother and father and reports back to the court.
A custody evaluation should help determine what is in the best psychological interest of the child. This is done by the evaluator interviewing the child, the parents, observing the interaction between the parents and the child, looking at school and other records, etc. The evaluator can then figure out the developmental needs of the child and assess the capacity of each of the parents to meet those needs.
The American Psychological Association has published guidelines for a custody evaluation. You can read those guidelines here: http://www.apa.org/practice/childcustody.html
One important guideline to note is that the psychologist who performs the evaluation should be objective and impartial. The evaluator isn’t on either parents’ side and should report the facts to the court. If a parent feels that an evaluator is not impartial, they should inform the court and try to get a new psychologist.
If you are a parent who wants a custody evaluation to help in child custody court, you will have to pay for it yourself. The general cost of a psychologist to perform an evaluation is $150-200 dollars per hour. The total cost is usually between $750-1500. If a court orders an evaluation, the parents usually don’t have to pay. Check your state laws for more information about that.
A parent shouldn’t be concerned about the custody evaluation. It is helpful if the parent is honest and forthcoming about their relationship with the child and the other custody factors. Of course you want the evaluator to see that you’re a good parent, and that will be shown as you interact with the child.