What Does It Mean to File a Request for A Child Custody Evaluation Against Your Child’s Parent?
A number of news headlines are always quick to capture any developments in the divorce and custody proceedings between celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. In March, that included Angeline Jolie filing a request for a child custody evaluation to be conducted against Brad Pitt, whereby an investigation into any history of abuse, mental health, and parenting practices would be completed before any custody determinations are made.
The Process in Florida
In Florida, these evaluations are conducted by licensed psychologists who perform the evaluations in accordance with guidelines provided by the American Psychological Association and typically based on interviews conducted with anyone who could be relevant, such as the child, extended family members, doctors, teachers, neighbors, etc. The court will determine who pays for the evaluation, and often splits the cost between both parents.
What to Know If a Custody Evaluation Is Being Conducted in Your Case
If you are facing a potential custody evaluation, keep in mind that it is the courts that are the final audience of this report and they make their determination based on what is in the best interest of the child, which is based on a statutory list of factors that they must take into account, such as the capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate a close parent-child relationship, consider and act on the needs of the child versus their own needs, the geographic viability of the parenting plan, the moral fitness of the parents, etc. Being honest and sincere, while avoiding making negative statements about the other parent unless it is absolutely necessary to discuss issues related to the parenting plan, is recommended. Also feel free to let your child know that, if they are going to be interviewed, they should feel comfortable being honest as well and they will not be put on the spot and asked to choose which parent they would prefer to live with.
What Information the Final Report Is Likely to Contain
Custody evaluations tend to contain the following information when they are submitted to the court:
- Summaries of the parents’ backgrounds, beliefs, strengths, weaknesses, etc.;
- Summary of information gained from speaking with the child;
- Guidelines to address any special concerns specific to the custody situation;
- Summary of the psychological tests conducted;
- Summaries of any statements made during interviews, including from neighbors, teachers, doctors, extended family members, etc.;
- Summaries of any documents received that were relied on in the evaluation; and
- The evaluator’s ultimate recommendation for a parenting plan, what happens if any future disputes arise, any necessary parenting classes or therapy, reevaluations, etc.
Contact Our Florida Family Law Attorneys with Any Questions
The courts do typically provide a significant amount of weight to these reports, as the psychologist is presumed to be acting in good faith as long as their recommendation has been reached under standards that are considered to be reasonable in the field. However, you and your attorney can request other evaluations and reports if you have concerns. For example, your child can typically have a guardian ad litem appointed to represent their interests in court.
If you have any questions or concerns, contact one of our experienced Orlando family attorneys at the Arwani Law Firm, PLLC to help provide you and your loved ones with the help you need to feel confident in moving forward.