When parents cannot reach an agreement about legal decision making or parenting time in Arizona, the judge in the case can order a professional child custody evaluation as per Rule 68 of the Rules of Family Procedure. Either parent can request that the other be evaluated, or the court can order an evaluation without any request.
These evaluations can be very valuable to the court because they are completed by licensed mental health professionals with experience in the parenting field. It is very difficult for a judge to evaluate a parent’s abilities, methods, attachment, and skills simply by the way they behave in a courtroom or through testimony in the case.
The custody evaluator meets with the parents and child or children individually and also in parent-child groups. He or she may also interview other family members, teachers or health care providers; review documents (such as school or medical records); or visit the parents’ homes. The evaluator may perform psychological testing on any of the parties in the case.
The evaluator does not act as a therapist for you or your child. Parents are usually ordered to pay for the cost of the evaluation. The evaluator usually provides a report and may testify in your trial. The court does not have to follow the evaluator’s recommendations, but generally they are given great weight. The evaluator may offer information about:
- A parenting plan that would be in the best interest of the child
- The parents’ skills
- Recommended therapy or parenting classes for parties
- The relationships between each parent and the child
- The psychological health of both parents and child
- Substance abuse by parents
If an evaluation is ordered in your case, do your best to be friendly and cooperative with the evaluator. Do not tell your child what to say to the evaluator or offer bribes or rewards to the child in relation to this.
The Sampair Group provides divorce representation in Maricopa County, Arizona. We are here to answer your questions. Call us today to schedule an appointment.