There are perhaps no other decisions that can be as emotionally affecting during a divorce as those regarding child custody. Although many parents are able to come to a custody agreement without the help of the courts, in some instances there is just too much disagreement. When this happens the ultimate decision is left to the court.
Before rendering a final judgment on the matter, however, a court may order a child custody evaluation. This evaluation assesses the child's needs and each parent's ability to meet them. It seeks to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each parent, looking at things that have happened in the past, the events available to both parents and any potential future needs that may arise. In the end, this evaluation does not seek to place blame or favor one parent over the other. Instead, it seeks to find a resolution that protects the best interests of the child.
The evaluation process can be quite in-depth. Interviews may be conducted with the parents separately, together and with the child, and documentation regarding the child's health, schooling and other pertinent issues may be requested. Also, parents may be asked to complete a psychological evaluation in order to obtain a full picture of the family, its dynamics and its health.
The results of a child custody evaluation can be determinative. Therefore, those who are about to go through the process may want to get more information about the process. By being familiar with the evaluation process and how to prepare for it, parents can go into it more comfortable and more engaged with what is best for their child.
Source: Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, "Preparing for your Custody Evaluation," accessed on Feb. 27, 2015