Do you need a custody evaluation?

Just attended a great presentation on Custody Evaluations by J. Albert Clyburn – a Wilmington Divorce Lawyer.  Some of the important notes that you need to consider if your attorney recommends a custody evaluation include:

  • Does your case warrant a custody evaluation – Are you and your spouse on speaking terms?  Is there evidence of physical or mental abuse (to a spouse of child)?  Does your spouse abuse drugs or alcohol?  Is there mental illness by one spouse?  If the answer to any of these questions is yes, than a custody evaluation might be appropriate.
  • You must define the scope of the evaluation – Who will be interviewed?  Will psychological testing be involved?  What direct observations may be included?  What other sources/documents will be available to the evaluator so that they can have a thorough and complete report?
  • Who will conduct the evaluation – You must be careful to select an impartial evaluator.  An evaluator who has a pre-existing bias against a certain sex, religious beliefs, method of child rearing, etc. can have a disastrous effect on your case.  Make sure you talk to your attorney about spelling out in the child custody evaluation order what is permissible and what is not permissible on the part of the evaluator.
  • Drafting the Order – In addition, the order should spell out the consequences if the evaluator breaches the limits of the order.  What would happen if the evaluator is having discussions with the judge without your knowledge, or ongoing conversations with opposing counsel?  These issues need to be addressed.
  • Preparation for the Evaluation – A custody evaluation is an invasive process.  You are allowing a complete stranger to come into your life, ask you very personal questions, and observe your interactions with your child.  You must be prepared for this.