The court will often resort to relying on child custody evaluations when there are volatile child custody issues in a divorce proceeding, or if for some reason parents cannot come to an agreement regarding child custody. Child custody evaluations, are conducted by qualified mental health professionals, to make determinations related to the legal and the physical custody of children. Psychologists, whose goal it is to address questions related to the best interest of the child, often conduct these evaluations.
Understanding California Child Custody Evaluations
There are two key components to child custody in California:
- Physical custody relates to the living arrangements of the child. Either parent may be awarded primary custody, or shared (joint) custody may be given to both parents.
- Legal custody refers to decision-making powers. It, too, may be solely or jointly awarded. The parent(s) who have legal custody have the ability to make conclusive decisions related to religious activity, education, medical issues, travel, and other important matters.
Preparing for a Child Custody Evaluation
It is no doubt stressful to even consider undergoing such a high-stakes evaluation. Even the most competent individual with the most outstanding parenting skills tends to be a bit intimidated when under the microscope. Some suggestions to get through it with as little stress as possible include:
- Choose cooperation over obstinacy. You may resent the entire process, but you will be much better off if you accommodate evaluators, who might otherwise interpret your resistance in a negative way.
- Treat the evaluation as a job interview. Put your best foot forward by displaying confidence, honesty, positivity, and punctuality. Obviously, express the love and concern you have for your child.
- Have documentation related to your child ready for the interview.
- Show the evaluator in word and deed that you have the best interests of your child in the forefront.
How is the Child Custody Evaluation Conducted?
A number of strategies may be employed over a period of time to learn about the child including:
- Running observations of the child in various settings;
- Scheduling interviews with parents;
- Conducting clinical interviews with the child;
- Administering psychological tests;
- Weighing other available documentation, like school records, medical records, and childcare records.
Additionally, extended family, friends, teachers, and other individuals who are familiar with and knowledgeable about the child may be contacted for relevant information. When all data is gathered, it will be evaluated by the psychologist and recommendations will be made to the court based on the best interests of the child. Continue reading →