What is a Child Custody Evaluation
Child custody evaluations can play a large role in child custody matters in Georgia. A child custody evaluation is when the court agrees to having an independent, unbiased, and experienced evaluator assess the environment that the child or children will experience while living with each parent.
As the courts place a large emphasis on the safety and well-being of any children when custody is being decided, it has a responsibility to ensure those children receive the full attention of the legal system. To that end, anyone involved in a custody matter may benefit from a child custody evaluation.
Why a Social Investigation May Be Needed
Whenever parents, in either a divorce case or a custody case, are separating, then the issue of custody is discussed. Both parents are focused on the protective care of their child and parental responsibility. Sometimes, the parents cannot agree though on that care or responsibility. Therefore, in some cases, his/her lawyer will suggest an independent study of the parents to help the parents come to a reasonable workable parenting plan.
A child custody evaluation, sometimes called a social investigation, is conducted to determine the fittest and healthiest environment for the children at the center of the custody matter.
While it may be intimidating for a parent to submit their life to an investigation by a “stranger,” it must be stressed that a trained and impartial investigator does not try to belittle or shame any parent but looks out for the best interests of the child or children. Often an evaluation will put to rest concerns one parent may have about the other parent’s “unfit lifestyle” or “bad parenting.” It can also illustrate to one parent that they are not necessarily able to commit the time they want to care for their child due to job responsibilities or other commitments, and that is okay and does not mean they are a bad parent.
Who Can Conduct a Child Custody Evaluation?
Evaluations get conducted by third-party professionals focused on the health and well-being of the child or children in question. The investigator can be a psychologist, social worker, or any other mental help professional appointed by the court.
The third-party aspect must be observed by all parties, as the investigator must maintain neutrality to make the best decision regarding the children. This means the investigator cannot have any kind of relationship with the parties involved. So if the investigator happens to be a social worker that has worked with the children or either parent, they would automatically be disqualified from service. A psychologist that has one of the parents as a client or has treated any of the parties would also be disqualified.
What Happens Next
As every custody situation will be unique due to the family involved, the investigator will first establish the specific questions that have to be answered for the custody hearing to allow the parties and the court to make the best parenting plan.
Some of the factors an investigator can consider include:
- The work schedules of the parents.
- Custody ratios, or how the parents will split parenting responsibilities.
- Scheduling concerns, including holidays and special events such as trips and hobbies.
- Medical considerations, such as whether any of the parents or children have specific medical conditions or needs. A parent living in closer proximity to a specialized medical facility needed by the child might be in a better position to provide aid in an emergency.
- Any existing custody plans. It’s possible the parents have already changed living arrangements and employed custody practices prior to the court’s considerations. If so, those practices may require adjustments based on the investigator’s findings.
- The fitness of the parents. If the investigator concludes one parent cannot fulfill their responsibilities to the child, for example, due to substance abuse or criminal activity, they may recommend that one parent be given sole custody.
They will visit each parent at their home, conduct interviews with parents and others that may have knowledge of the individuals involved, and make their assessment. They will then write up a thorough report which will include recommendations and submit the report.
To get assistance in your child custody matter or other family law matter, contact Phillips Carson Phillips. Attorney Carson prides himself on being one of the preeminent family law attorneys in the Coastal Empire and surrounding area. Whether you are going through a divorce or fighting for custody of your child,