If the parties are unable to reach an agreement on custody, a neutral evaluator may perform a custody evaluation to protect the best interests of the child. A custody evaluation will provide the Court with recommendations based on the best interests of the child and what the evaluator believes is the most appropriate custody arrangement.
Although custody evaluations are not binding, they can be highly persuasive to the court. The evaluator will conduct a comprehensive examination of the health, safety, welfare, and best interests of the child. The evaluator is expected to act in the child’s best interests during this process.
The custody evaluation will often be conducted through home studies, criminal background checks, reviews of mental or physical health records, and talks to other persons about the parenting skills of the parents involved. You should be honest with the evaluator in order to protect your credibility. If you lie to or do not provide information to the evaluator, it will significantly harm you during the process.
It is always better to be open and honest during a custody evaluation. It is also important to be prepared for the home study. Make sure your home is clean, the refrigerator is full, any alcohol and/or ashtrays are kept out of reach of the children, etc. The home that is proposed as where the child will spend the majority of time should be a place that the evaluator feels is a safe and an appropriate environment for a minor child. Ensuring that the home looks appropriate at the time of the home study is a vital task.
Once the custody evaluation is received, you may not necessarily agree with the recommendations. If that is the case, there are more steps that can be taken. You may have another evaluation done or you may challenge the evaluation. Sometimes evaluation report contains mistakes or seems to be biased toward one parent over the other. It is important to remember that just because you get a negative custody evaluation report, it does not necessarily mean that your request for custody and/or parenting time will be denied by the Judge.
Our attorneys have experience preparing for and dealing with custody evaluations before, during, and after the report has been received. They will work with you and advocate for the best interests of you and your children. Child custody is among the greatest challenges in a divorce, so the assistance of an experienced Minnesota divorce attorney can go a long way.