Ideally, separating parents will arrive at an amicable custody arrangement and schedule of visitation. However, when parents are unable to arrive at a mutually acceptable plan, the court may order a child custody evaluation be performed. The other common reason for a custody evaluation is when one or both parents believe their current custody agreement does not meet the needs of their child or children.
A child custody evaluation is a process in which a mental health professional spends time with both parents, their child, and sometimes others familiar with the family to sufficiently identify the needs of your child and each party’s ability to meet those needs. Sometimes the evaluator will review public records, or request various types of psychological testing. The evaluator always serves as an impartial investigator of fact, maintains the best interests of the child as the focus of their inquiry, and reports their findings to the court, the involved parents, and parents’ attorneys.
Evaluations follow the rules found in Utah Code 30-3 and Rule 4-903, and among other factors take into consideration the presence of specific areas of concern such as domestic violence, sexual abuse, substance abuse, and mental illness.
The cost for custody evaluations vary depending on the type of case and number of individuals involved. While they can be expensive, they often are much less expensive than the cost of continued litigation. Most always the court will order the cost to be split between the competing parties.