Who should pick a custody evaluator?  

Technology has introduced new pitfalls for clients seeking a custody evaluator. Many clients now search the Internet and present their attorneys with lists of people they suppose may be appropriate to provide custody evaluations. See additional information here about problems with Internet searches.

It is my belief that an attorney should be the primary person responsible for selecting an evaluator.

What should you look for? 

It is strongly suggested that an evaluator be a licensed professional with a strong background in psychology, psychiatry, or social work.

Pennsylvania does not have a law specifying who can perform this type of service. Almost anyone can hang a shingle, advertise, and perform custody evaluations. If your client uses an evaluator that is not licensed, you and your client have little recourse if the evaluation becomes problematic. 

What information do clients find on the Internet? 

Your clients may come to you with a list of “experts” found on many web sites. These may be sites that charge a fee for inclusion of the evaluator’s name, but do not check credentials. The client can also find a list of evaluators who have an agenda. This can include parent alienation syndrome, father’s rights, mother’s rights, and so on. There are even sites dedicated to skewing the evaluation.  The client can pay a fee and attempts to learn how to “fool” the expert.

Who should the evaluator work for? 

The American Psychological Association clearly states that an evaluator should work for the best interests of the child. Other disciplines have their own guidelines. 

A licensed psychologist should work for the best interests of the child regardless of who pays for the evaluation and be a neutral evaluator. This could mean that the evaluator may not make a recommendation favoring your client. When this happens, clients will often come to understand that the evaluator made the appropriate recommendation, helping the child and family.

 How do I check for a license? 

Check for licensing verification by going to The Pennsylvania Department of State Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs license verification web site:


 How can I prepare my client for the evaluation? 

A client who is truthful and candid makes the best impression on evaluators.  Ask your client to cooperate.  Do not give him or her an agenda to put forth.  Remind the client that while you work for the client’s best interests, the evaluator works for the best interests of the children. 

What should you tell your client about an outcome?

The final decision about custody rests with the judge. The judge may use the evaluation as part of the decision-making, or may ignore the entire report.

So why have an evaluation done at all?  A good evaluator will help to identify the needs of the child and the ability of the respective parent to meet those needs.

Good evaluators will have years of experience working with conflicted families and will make sure that the children’s voices will be heard.   





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