When parents don't agree on child custody, the judge may order them to participate in a child custody study, otherwise known as an evaluation. A lot is riding on the evaluator's opinion, and it might be helpful to know what will be happening during your study. If the other parent is found to be the best fit for taking full physical custody of the child, you could end up having to spend time with your child via visitation only. To find out what goes on during a child custody study, read on.
What to Expect in General
Each study is different, but they generally consist of reviewing previous custody matters, interviews, observation of the child, and psychological testing. You can expect this very detailed process to take several weeks to complete.
Previous Custody Matters
Before anything else happens, the evaluator will probably review court information about the case. They have access to affidavits, statements, and other pieces of evidence already presented to the court. Knowing this, it pays to be honest and forthcoming with the evaluator because they know more than you realize about your efforts to obtain custody and why you think that is important. Review everything you have concerning child custody and discuss all court information with your attorney.
Expect some probing and personal questions during the interview process. Your divorce lawyer has likely led many parents through studies, and they can help you prepare to answer questions about your child, the other parent, and more. When answering questions, keep the focus on what is best for your child and not yourself or the other parent. Be fair and honest when providing your opinions of the other parent.
Observation of the Child
Evaluators need to understand how well parents interact with their children in casual settings. Expect to be asked to interact using age-appropriate means. Younger children may be provided with toys for this exercise, for instance. During these observation periods, the evaluator is looking for:
- The child's attentiveness to the parent.
- The parent's ability to both speak to and listen to the child.
- The parent's ability to understand what interests the child and what does not during play.
Finally, your child may undergo several tests that measure emotional maturity and more. Parents may also be subject to tests that measure their mental health status, intelligence, and more. The results of these tests are used to provide additional information that is considered, along with all the other aspects of the study.
Most experts say that the most important part of the study is the observation sessions. Much can be learned about a parent-child relationship just by observing them. To learn more about child study evaluations, speak to a local child custody attorney.