What is a Child Custody Evaluation?
Child Custody Evaluations
(often referred to as “Social Study Evaluations” or “Social Investigations”)
“Child custody evaluation is a process through which recommendations for the custody of, parenting of, and access to children can be made to the court in those cases in which the parents are unable to work out their own parenting plans.”
From “Model Standards of Practice” of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (1994). The most current version of the AFCC model standards can be found here.
When conducting a custody evaluation the goal is to assess the ways in which each parent contributes to the physical, emotional and social development of the children in question. The role of any professional conducting a child custody evaluation involves neutrality and transparency. Evaluators should always strive to serve impartially, never as an advocate for one parent or the other. In the end the goal is to make recommendations to the court as to how both parents can best meet the needs and interests of the children involved.
Preparing for the evaluation:
Cooperate with the evaluator. They are there to help the family and the judge to decide on what will be in the best interests of the children.
Separate marriage problems from parenting concerns. There may still be a lot of hurt and anger toward the other parent, however, marital issues may not be relevant to timesharing issues.
Don’t look at the custody evaluation process as a “win/lose” situation. This is a good time to try to put the past behind and focus on the future.
Parents can help their children by being open and honest with the evaluator.
The evaluator can be a resource of information. Ask about reading material, parent education classes, counseling and other help.
Organize school, health and other information that will be helpful.
Make notes of the questions that should be asked of the evaluator.