In our last post, we discussed guardians ad litem in Illinois and examined their role in a child custody dispute. In this post, we will look at another important role in custody battles: that of a custody evaluator.
Similar to cases in which guardians ad litem are appointed by the court, custody evaluators are often appointed when a custody battle is complex or hostile and the judge needs objective information about the parents and their home lives in order to make a custody decision.
What Is a Custody Evaluator?
A custody evaluator is usually a trained psychologist or a psychiatrist. They are responsible for investigating the mental health, home situation, and parenting capabilities of each parent, as well as getting to know each child in order to determine what is in their best interests. Parents may be required by the judge to pay for the custody evaluator themselves.
What Does a Custody Evaluator Do?
Depending on the situation, a custody evaluator may use several tools at their disposal in order to get a holistic assessment of a parent and their home environment. These include, but are not limited to:
Requiring psychological testing of the parents and the children
Interviewing parents extensively and repeatedly
Interviewing other adults in a child’s environment, like teachers, neighbors, or religious leaders
Visiting parents’ homes and spending extended periods of time there in order to get a realistic view of the home environment
Reviewing financial documents, court records, grade reports, and any other relevant documentation
As you can see, custody evaluations can be quite extensive and more thorough than a guardian ad litem’s case review. At the end of the evaluation, a custody evaluator will write a report to submit to the court for consideration by the judge.
What Power Does a Custody Evaluator Have?
A custody evaluator does not have authoritative decision-making capabilities regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities or parenting time. However, they are able to make a formal recommendation, and judges often take this recommendation seriously. Although the judge does not necessarily have to follow the recommendations of the custody evaluator, they do have to consider the report the evaluator makes.
What Should I Do During a Custody Evaluation?
As when a guardian ad litem is assigned to your case, you should remain cooperative and helpful during a custody evaluation. The evaluator is working to maintain objectivity, and their job is to gather information as to what is best for a child.
Be honest and open with a custody evaluator, and remember that anything you attempt to hide or cover up will often come out later, to your disadvantage. You should also keep in mind that the results of a custody evaluator’s assessment are not private–unlike seeing a psychological professional in a private practice.
Talk to a DuPage County Child Custody Attorney
If a custody evaluator has been appointed to your case, or if you think a custody evaluator may be helpful in your custody battle, contact a Wheaton, IL child custody dispute attorney. The experienced lawyers at Andrew Cores Family Law Group will handle your case with skill and sympathy. Contact us today at 630-871-1002 for a free and confidential consultation.