Child Custody Evaluations in Fredericksburg
When going through a divorce or custody battle, one of the most hot button issues that can come up for couples with kids is who’ll get custody of the kids. Parents who can agree on child custody through a parenting plan can simplify the custody process. And parents who can’t agree in a custody case will likely go through an expensive, difficult and nerve-wracking process.
What’s a Child Custody Evaluation?
A child custody evaluation is an investigation into your children’s home environment, relationship with you, siblings, and extended family members, and other area of the children’s lives. The purpose of the investigation is to decide what custody and visitation situation is best for the children.
Child custody evaluators may be necessary to decide what's in the child's best interests regarding who should have custody or how the parents will divide custody. An attorney for child custody evaluations from the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny in Bellevue can help you with this process – call 425-460-0550.
What Happens During the Child Custody Evaluation Process?
Once a child custody evaluator is chose, either the court will appoint or the parents will choose, together or one parent unilaterally, a child custody evaluator to perform the investigation. The evaluator is often a mental health professional, and it is their task to evaluate the two parents, the children, each parent’s abilities to positively parent, and each parent’s willingness to foster a healthy relationship between the children and the other parent. After a full investigation, the evaluator makes a recommendation to the court, and the court heavily weighs this recommendation. However, do be mindful that the evaluator’s recommendation is not definitive; the court will exercise its own discretion in reaching a decision.
Also note that, because a custody evaluation involves an exploration into the mental health of each parent, the mental health of the children, the quality of the parent-child relationships, each parent’s capacity to parent, and any evidence of abuse and/or parental alienation, the evaluator may also interview outside parties who have witnessed the parents, children, and/or parent-child relationship. These outside parties often include teachers, daycare providers, and therapists, but are not limited to such.
Must Knows About the Child Custody Evaluation Process
Before you ask for or get involved with a child custody evaluation, you must consider the following:
1. Role of the child custody evaluator. The evaluator isn’t your ally. They’re not on you or your ex’s side. They will objectively look at your current living siutuations and recommend a custody plan that they think is best for your child. It doesn’t matter that you paid for the evaluator
2. The child custody evaluator is not the judge. They don’t decide who gets custody. That’s the court's decision. The court will consider the custody factors listed in Virginia Code Section 20-124.3 when it decides what custody or visitation arrangement is in the best interests of the child.
3. The evaluator is not a mediator. The evaluation isn’t on your case to give you advice or to tell either parent they’re a bad parent. Their only job is to look at your family’s current overall situation and make recommend to the court what it thinks is best for your child to live.
4. An evaluator’s recommendations can be broad. In addition to making custody recommendations, evaluators can recommend that the parents and or kids attend therapy, suggest parenting classes, recommend treatment, or offer a plan to resolve future disagreements between the parents.
5. When you both agree you stay in control. You know your children best. That being said, you and the other parent are the two people that know best to decide what’s in your child’s best interests!
Getting Ready for a Child Custody Evaluation
Preparing for a child custody evaluation can be a difficult and scary experience. The child custody evaluation usually includes the custody evaluation asking the parents questions about their personal history, including their history as a parent, interviews, psychological tests, and being watched interacting with your kids and interviews with any parenting references you give.
Make sure to always answer a custody evaluators' questions honestly. Never hide anything. Don’t coach your child to lie to the evaluator. Always cooperate with the evaluator and make all meetings they request you to show up to. Be ready to talk about and describe your parenting style, dispute anything that your ex-partner or anyone else interviewed for the evaluation might say about you. If there’s a history of domestic abuse, drug use or criminal activity tell the evaluation even if you think it will hurt your chances at custody. Importantly, if you believe your ex-spouse is unfit to raise your children for any other reason, be sure to let your evaluator know.
Your Custody Evaluation May Require References
In addition to answering personal questions about yourself and being observed by an evaluator, you’ll also have the chance to provide them with references. These references can provide letters speaking to your abilities as a parent and the evaluator may interview them. It’s important to choose your references wisely. Trusted relatives, school psychologists or other parents may be good references for you.
If the evaluator receives information about you -- either from your behavior, from your ex-spouse, from collateral sources or from your child – indicating you are unfit to be the child’s custodial parent, then you may lose your custodial rights.
Do I Need to Hire an Attorney for Child Custody Evaluations?
If you’re in the middle of a divorce in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and you and your spouse cannot agree on who will have custody of your child, you may have to go through with a child custody evaluation. It usually helps to have an attorney on your side who can speak for you, help prepare you for answering questions and walk you through the process. A child custody evaluation process is one of the most important things that you and your child will ever undergo.