Child custody evaluations (now referred to as “timesharing” evaluations) may be ordered by the judge, or may be requested by the parents or their attorneys when parents cannot agree on how time with their children will be shared, or when there is a concern about a parent’s capacity to parent effectively or responsibly.
When parents divorce they must decide how to care for their child(ren) once the family is no longer together. Parents often are able and willing to work together to develop a timesharing plan that is in their child(ren)’s best interest, but when they cannot agree, they may turn to the court to make decisions for them. Since the judge or magistrate who hears their case is unlikely to know either the parents or the child(ren), the court may order an evaluation.
A court ordered evaluation results is a report based on a background investigation ordered by a judge or magistrate. It is used to help determine the best interests of the child(ren) when the parents cannot agree about timesharing. The evaluation can take the form of a psychological assessment, a guardian ad litem report, or a court investigation. The evaluation focuses upon parenting attributes, the child(ren)’s psychological needs and the fit between the child(ren) and each parent.
The Court may order either a Full or a Focused evaluation. Psychological testing may also be ordered, and is usually a component of the evaluation process.
A “Full evaluation, investigation, or assessment” is a comprehensive examination of the health, safety, welfare, and best interest of the child. A Full evaluation typically requires about 15–20 hours or more of the evaluator’s time.
A “Focused” evaluation ” is an examination of the best interest of the child that is limited by court order in either time or scope. The Partial or Focused Evaluation requires about 12–18 hours of investigation, interviews and report preparation.