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Tampa Divorce Attorney | Blog | Child Custody | What Is a Custody Evaluation, and Is It Right for My Case?

What Is a Custody Evaluation, and Is It Right for My Case?


When divorcing parents cannot agree on issues pertaining to child custody and timesharing, the court must step in. The court may appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) to represent the child’s best interest. The court may also order a custody evaluation. This evaluation can be ordered by the court or requested by either parent. You may be wondering what a custody evaluation is and if it is right for your case. Read on to learn what a custody evaluation is and whether or not this is right for your case.

What Is a Custody Evaluation?

A child custody evaluation is an assessment conducted by a licensed psychologist to help the court decide the best custody or timesharing arrangement for a child. These psychologists are subject to the ethical rules of their profession, including rules set forth by the American Psychological Association.

The evaluator is tasked to investigate and provide an opinion of what he/she professionally believes is in the best interests of the child.  In order for the evaluator to fully understand the family dynamics, the typical custody evaluation consists of:

  • Two or three interviews with each parent;
  • Two or three interviews with each child;
  • Observation of parental interaction with each child in the office and potentially at home;
  • Psychological testing as necessary (which can include the parents and/or the child);
  • Review of the court file;
  • Interviews with child’s teachers, pediatricians, day care providers and other persons that may play important roles in the child’s life.

Once the evaluation process is complete, the evaluator will issue a report with recommendations to the Court regarding custody and visitation.  Most evaluators will specifically address the concerns raised by each parent in making recommendations. The final custody and visitation recommendation is based on factors such as:

  • The quality of each parent’s relationship to each child;
  • The relationship between the parents and their ability or willingness to support their children’s ongoing relationships with the other parent;
  • The parenting skills and capacity of each parent;
  • Each parent’s psychological health and any history of drug or alcohol abuse;
  • The psychological health of the children; and
  • Any evidence of abuse or violence.

The court then makes the final decision.

Is a Custody Evaluation Right for My Case?

There is no simple answer to this question. Whether or not a child custody evaluation is right for your case depends on the specific facts of your situation. If you and the other parent have significant and irreconcilable different opinions about what the custody or timesharing arrangement is best for your child, a child custody evaluation may be appropriate.  Additionally, a child custody evaluation can prove very useful in cases involving concerns dealing with mental health, substance abuse, parental alienation, or domestic abuse.

Pros and Cons of Child Custody Evaluations

Before deciding whether or not a child custody evaluation is right for your case, you should consider the pros and cons of a child custody evaluation. The following are some of the pros of a child custody evaluation:

  • Objective assessment
  • Customized recommendations
  • Informed decision-making
  • Helps uncover unhealthy family dynamics that could have a lasting negative impact on children

Below are some of the cons of child custody evaluations;

  • Can be time-consuming and costly
  • Evaluators may bring their own life experiences into their assessment and recommendations, which can include personal prejudices and biases
  • The process can be very intrusive and emotionally taxing for everyone involved

According to Florida Statute 61.122, a psychologist is presumed to be acting in good faith if the recommendations given were arrived at through standards that a reasonable psychologist would have used as recommended by the laid-down rules. If you participate in a custody evaluation and feel the psychologist acted inappropriately, you can file either an administrative action or a lawsuit against the psychologist.

The Law Office of Laura A. Olson Can Help With Your Child Custody Needs

If you are dealing with a child custody dispute, contact a skilled Tampa child custody attorney at the Law Office of Laura A. Olson, P.A., to schedule a free initial consultation.

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