In custody cases where issues are raised concerning either parent’s mental, a child’s mental health where then children may be displaying changed or abnormal behavior, possible substance abuse, or other facts that can impact a parent’s ability to care for a child, the Courts may upon motion from either party or upon its own motion require that a custody evaluation be done.
A custody evaluation is usually done by a licensed clinical psychologist with course work, experience and expertise on children and parents in custody situations. They have been trained in particular methodology, including the administration of certain tests, that are directed toward obtaining facts and information to assist a court in making a custody determination that is in the best interest of the child.
Some components of a custody evaluation include; testing of each parent and child; collateral interviews, and clinical observations. The American Psychologist Association has developed standards by which a custody evaluator must perform his or her analysis.
Attorneys may be permitted to talk to the custody evaluator during the process to provide facts and insight; and a custody evaluator may answer the attorney’s questions during the process.
The custody evaluator submits a report, often lengthy, that outlines his or her findings and conclusions. The custody evaluator may also testify and answer questions by each party of the Court.
When the court is considering the number of factors on custody, including but not limited to, the age and physical and mental condition of the child, the age and physical and mental condition of each parent, the relationship existing between each parent and each child, the needs of the child, the role that each parent has played and will play in the future, in the upbringing and care of the child; the propensity of each parent to actively support the child’s contact and relationship with the other parent, and any history of abuse, this additional source of information can be particularly helpful.