What is a custody evaluation?

An evaluation of both of the parents and the children by a neutral evaluator to determine the best custody arrangement for a child. The court can order a custody evaluation, or a parent or lawyer can request one.

Who provides custody evaluations?

Licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers can give custody evaluations. Your lawyer can usually recommend someone to you who is experienced and has the proper credentials. Because these types of evaluations are specialized work, it is important that an expert in this field perform the evaluation.

Who does the evaluator work for?

The evaluator is independent and neutral and is looking out for the best interests of the child, regardless of who pays for the evaluation. The evaluator does not work for the attorney or the parents.

What is the cost?

Custody evaluators often ask for a retainer fee, just as lawyers often do. The retainer may cover the entire cost of an evaluation, especially if it is uncomplicated, or there may be additional costs. Custody evaluations are costly, but are often the only solution when parents can not agree on a custody arrangement.

What is included and what will I have to do?

Both parents may receive one or several personality tests. Adults in the home will need to be interviewed, and the children will be interviewed. Home visits are sometimes also needed. The evaluator will want to contact previous therapists, family members, and possibly teachers and friends.

What types of questions will I be asked?

Although all custody situations are unique, you may be asked questions about your background, family history, and mental health, as well as questions about who is responsible for the child’s care, what the child’s needs are, and why the parents have been unable to agree on a plan.

What happens next?

The evaluator prepares a report that is then sent to both lawyers. Your lawyer will review the findings with you and decide if a trial is in your best interest. If a trial is still needed, the report will then be sent to the judge.

How should I react to this evaluation?

It is in your best interest to be open and cooperative with the evaluator. Be truthful and candid when you are tested and when interviewed. Remember, the evaluator wants what is best for your child.

What Should I Bring to a Custody Evaluation?

  1. The names and addresses of relatives and friends who are familiar with your parenting style.

  2. A list of your family’s doctors, as well as any mental health professionals you and your family have seen in the past.

  3. A copy of your current custody agreement.

  4. Copies of any relevant documents that you believe may be important to the evaluator.


© 2006 All rights reserved. |  Last revised by R. Cohen on January 21, 2006