Illinois Child Custody Evaluations

During your parental responsibilities case, the judge may order a child custody evaluation. The evaluator, usually a psychologist or psychiatrist, will study you, the other parent and your child to give an official custody recommendation.

There are three types of evaluations you should be aware of: 604.10(b), 604.10(c) and 215. These names come from the state codes that govern them.

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Types of evaluations

A 604.10(b) evaluation is the standard evaluation ordered by a court. It helps the judge make decisions about parental responsibilities and parenting time.

If you find fault with a court-ordered 604.10(b) evaluation, you can request a 604.10(c) evaluation. The only difference between the two is the evaluator. When a party requests a 604.10(c) evaluation, they select the evaluator and pay all associated costs.

A 215 evaluation investigates the mental or physical fitness of a parent. Often, the evaluator only needs to meet with the parent once before submitting a report.

Common reasons for evaluations

The court orders an evaluation when more information about a family's circumstances would help decide the best parenting arrangement for a child. Concerns about the following often prompt custody evaluations:

The judge may also order an evaluation if a parent or the child's representative requests one.

Selecting and paying an evaluator

Evaluators are licensed professionals who meet state standards. The judge may assign an evaluator to your case or you may choose one from a court-approved list. Your evaluator must be neutral and have no connection to your family.

Evaluations can cost several thousand dollars. The judge may order parents to split the evaluator's fee based on their relative incomes or have one parent assume most or all of the costs.

During the evaluation

Evaluations can last weeks or months while the evaluator studies the dynamics between the child and each parent in multiple ways. He or she may:

  • Interview the child and parents individually
  • Conduct psychological testing on the family
  • Observe the family at home
  • Interview friends, relatives and others involved with the family (like teachers or doctors)

The evaluator may interview each person multiple times.

You may need to submit personal health documents and take part in psychological testing. If you protest, the judge can order you to comply.

Evaluator's report

At the end of the process, the evaluator submits a report for the judge to review.

The report details the strengths and weaknesses of each parent and a recommendation for the division of parental responsibilities and parenting time.

In most cases, the judge follows the evaluator's recommendation when deciding the final judgment.

Special circumstances

A parent or the judge can ask the evaluator to testify about the final report before the court. This gives both parents the opportunity to question the evaluator.

Your evaluator will watch for signs of parental alienation, which is when a parent manipulates their child's relationship with the other parent through false claims. If the evaluator detects alienation, they may recommend family therapy. The alienated parent may receive sole parental responsibility, and the parenting time schedule may gradually increase their time with the child.

Tips for parents going through an evaluation

  • Meet with an attorney or use other resources to understand the process.
  • Take all interactions with the evaluator seriously. Arrive on time, dress neatly, be prepared with documents, etc.
  • Always show that your child is a priority in your life. Keep their interests and needs at the forefront, rather than your own.
  • Be honest. Recognize both your strengths and your weaknesses as a parent.
  • Try not to speak negatively about the other parent.
  • Don't coach your child.
  • Be forthcoming with any questions you have.

Staying organized

Evaluations add complexity to an already-complex process.

Throughout your case, you may need to create a parenting plan, draft parenting time schedules, track time with your child, keep a log about interactions with the other parent, and more.

The Custody X Change app enables you to do all of this in one place. With a parenting plan template, visual parenting time calendars, a digital journal and beyond, Custody X Change makes sure you're prepared for whatever arises in your journey to parental responsibilities and parenting time.

Take advantage of our technology to stay on top of all the moving parts of your case.

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