North Carolina Child Custody Evaluations

Child custody evaluations are assessments conducted by mental health professionals to determine what's best for a child.

They result in a report for the judge that includes a custody recommendation.

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Common reasons for evaluations

Parents can agree to a custody evaluation, one parent can ask the judge for an evaluation or the court can order one without a request.

Concerns about the following often prompt evaluations:

Selecting and paying an evaluator

Evaluators are professionals licensed by the state. Yours cannot have any connection to you or your family. Parents may choose an evaluator together or have the judge assign one. In rare cases, each parent hires an evaluator separately.

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

During the evaluation

The evaluator may need weeks or months to study the dynamics between the child and each parent. 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)
  • Review documents related to the case, such as school or health records

Don't be surprised if the evaluator interviews one person multiple times.

If you refuse to turn over documents to the evaluator or participate in part of the process, the judge can order you to comply.

Evaluator's report

To bring their work to a close, the evaluator submits a report to the court.

The report details the strengths and weaknesses of each parent, the relationships among the parties and a recommendation for the division of legal and physical custody.

The judge consider the evaluator's recommendations when making a permanent custody order.

Special circumstances

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 finds evidence of alienation, he or she may recommend sole physical custody or gradually-increasing visitation for the alienated parent.

If an evaluator suspects issues like child abuse, child neglect, substance abuse or domestic violence, he or she may recommend therapy or further investigation.

Tips for parents going through an evaluation

  • Meet with an attorney or use other custody resources to understand the process.
  • Take all interactions with the evaluator seriously. Arrive on time, dress neatly, come prepared with documents, etc.
  • Show that your child is a priority in your life. Keep their interests at the forefront, rather than your own.
  • Remember your words and actions will go into a report. Treat the evaluator with respect, and don't argue.
  • 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 visitation schedules, 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, custody calendars, a digital journal and beyond, Custody X Change makes sure you're prepared for whatever arises in your journey to custody.

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

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