The Evaluations That Arise in Child Custody Matters

When parents separate or divorce in Indiana, one of the most critical issues they face is determining child custody arrangements. It is not uncommon in custody proceedings for the Court to order a child custody evaluation to gather information and insight that can help make decisions in the best interests of the child. While a child custody evaluation may be a new concept and seemingly a daunting process, an experienced family law attorney can be of beneficial assistance. This blog discusses child custody evaluations in Indiana child custody proceedings.

A child custody evaluation is a comprehensive assessment conducted by a court-appointed mental health professional, typically a psychologist or a counselor. The primary goal of this evaluation is to provide the court with objective information and recommendations regarding custody arrangements, parenting time, and other related issues. An evaluator’s role is to provide an objective impartial assessment of the family dynamics and make recommendations that prioritize the child’s best interests. It is important to note that the evaluator does not advocate for either parent but can serve as an expert witness to assist the court in making an informed decision regarding child custody.

 The child custody evaluation process involves the following: (1) interviews; (2) observations; (3) psychological testing; (4) review of records; and (5) evaluation report. Further, an evaluator will conduct interviews with the parents, the child(ren), and potentially other relevant individuals, such as teachers or family members. The evaluator may want to make observations of the parent-child interests and the child’s living environment(s). An evaluator may require the parents to participate in psychological testing to assess each parent’s psychological functioning, parenting abilities, and the child’s emotional and behavioral well-being. To better understand the matter, the evaluator may want to review records, such as court filings, medical records, and school reports. Ultimately, based on the evaluator's investigative efforts in the matter will likely result in an evaluation report that is a detailed report with findings and recommendations for the court. 

Along with the evaluation process, evaluators will take into consideration many factors that are related to the best interests of the child. Pursuant to I.C. 31-14-13-2. “[t]he court shall determine custody in accordance with the best interests of the child. In determining the child’s best interests, there is not a presumption favoring either parent. The court shall consider the relevant factors, including the following: (1) the age and sex of the child. (2) The wishes of the child’s parents. (3) The wishes of the child, with more consideration given to the child’s wishes if the child is at least fourteen (14) years of age. (4) The interaction and interrelationship of the child with: (A) the child’s parents; (B) the child’s siblings; and (C) any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest. (5) The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community. (6) The mental and physical health of all individuals involved. (7) Evidence of a pattern of domestic or family violence by either parent. (8) Evidence that the child has been cared for by a de facto custodian, and if the evidence is sufficient, the court shall consider the factors described in section 2.5(b) of this chapter.” Some other factors an evaluator can consider are as follows: the mental and physical health of all individuals involved; evidence of domestic violence and substance abuse; and the ability of each parent to encourage a continuing relationship with the other parent.

You must prepare for the evaluation. It is essential that you cooperate fully with the evaluator, provide accurate and truthful information, and ensure your home environment is suitable for the child. An experienced attorney would be vital in ensuring that you are prepped for the evaluator’s investigation process. Further, a skilled attorney will advocate for your rights and ensure the evaluation process is fair and equitable. 

Child custody evaluations can be emotionally challenging, but they play a vital role in protecting the well-being of children during parental separation or divorce. By understanding the process and working collaboratively with the evaluator and the Court, parents can contribute positively toward the outcome that prioritizes the child’s best interests. The attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. have ample experience in family law proceedings throughout Indiana. We are here to help you through the custody evaluation process. This blog was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C., and this blog is not intended as specific legal advice or a solicitation of services, as this is an advertisement. 


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