A custody evaluation is a helpful tool in contested custody cases for the parents and/or the court in determining what legal and physical custody arrangement is in your child(ren)’s best interest.
When custody or access/visitation disputes arise in a custody case or during separation or divorce proceedings, a party may request, or a judge may order, that a person be appointed to conduct an assessment.
A Child Custody Assessment includes:
A. Custody Evaluation
B. Home study
C. Mental Health Evaluation
D. Specific Issue Evaluation
According to Maryland Rule 9-205.3, a child custody evaluation is a study and analysis of the needs and development of a child who is the subject of the proceeding and of the abilities of the parties to care for the child and meet the child’s needs. A custody evaluation is performed by an individual, known as a custody evaluator, who is approved by the court to perform a custody evaluation.
The following professionals may be appointed to conduct a custody evaluation:
A. Licensed physician who is board certified in psychiatry
B. Licensed psychologist
C. Licensed clinical marriage and family therapist
D. Licensed clinical social worker
E. Licensed graduate or master social worker with 2 years of relevant experience
F. Licensed clinical professional counselor
A custody evaluator may be a private individual retained by the parties or a court employed social worker.
A custody evaluation is composed of the following mandatory items:
A. Review of relevant court records
B. Interview of each party
C. Interview of the child, unless the child lacks the capacity to be interviewed
D. Review of educational, medical and legal records of the child
E. Observation of the child with each party, if possible
F. Factual findings about the child’s needs
G. Factual findings about each party’s ability to meet the child’s needs
H. Custody and access/visitation recommendations
A custody evaluation may also include these optional items:
A. Contact with collateral sources of information
B. Review of additional records
C. Employment verification
D. Interview of other individuals residing in the household
Subject to court approval, a custody evaluation may also include:
E. Mental health evaluation
F. Consultation with other experts
G. Investigation of other relevant information regarding the child’s needs
After the facts have been gathered and carefully considered, the custody evaluator will prepare a report. The report may be an oral report on the record at a pretrial or settlement conference or a written report. If an oral report is given, the custody evaluator must produce and provide the parties and the court a written list containing a description of all documents reviewed. The court will provide the parties with a copy of the transcript of the oral report at no charge.
Once the custody evaluator issues his or her report, contested custody cases can frequently be avoided as the report provides insight as to what the outcome may be if your custody case is litigated.
If you have any questions about a custody evaluation, reach out to our team of compassionate experts and learn more about the process.