Understanding Child Custody Evaluations
(Provided by How to Win Child Custody)

The judge requires an impartial and professional custody evaluation before making a custody decision except in very clear cases. Your experts come into court and testify why their client is the best parent. The judge may disregard the testimony of all experts if it appears each side has hired someone who stresses only the points favorable to the person paying their bill. In that case, the court will appoint its own expert because the two of you did not provide a credible evaluation. The court may also appoint an expert or refer the matter to the probation department if neither of you present an evaluation.

Anything less than full preparation, although appropriate to your circumstances, is foolish at this point if you have chosen to have the court decide the custody of your children. Retain an expert, and have your expert testify. After all, if you donít have one, the judge may believe your spouseís expert. Pick the best available professional available when you pick your expert. Your expert is there to persuade the judge. Do your homework, and if possible use one of the professionals that the judge would appoint. Your expert must be the one with the greatest credibility. Youíve done it right when the judge literally turns to your expert in the courtroom and asks what to do with this difficult problem.

If your situation doesnít permit use of high-priced experts, the judge may refer the custody evaluation to the probation department if not satisfied with the evidence and lack of professional insight at trial. The governmental evaluators may move slowly, but they still do all the right things in preparing a neutral evaluation.

Your active role in the evaluation process is usually completed by the time the evaluator becomes involved. Youíve done all the right things already. You have witnesses. You may have a therapist. The children are happy with the home life that you provide for them.

Safeguard your preparation so it remains in place for the evaluator to observe. Donít meet with the evaluator with your children after they have just spent the preceding days with your spouse; they may be a little awkward with you after several days away. If there is a home visit, go ahead; have everyone sitting around playing a game. A pan of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven is a traditional touch.

Information provided by:
How to Win Child Custody