What is a Child Custody Evaluation in Arizona?
Child Custody Evaluations in Arizona Child Custody Cases
If you are involved in a child custody case in Arizona the chances are you may ask yourself what is a child custody evaluation in Arizona. A child custody evaluation involves choosing a person to investigate all matters that affect a child when the parents cannot agree on child custody arrangements for that child.
There are several aspects to a child custody evaluation; which we are going to discuss. Specifically, we need to discuss when a child custody evaluation needs to be completed. We will talk about who will do the evaluation. We will then address what happens in the evaluation and, lastly, we will go over what happens in a child custody evaluation. Let’s get started.
When is a Child Custody Evaluation Necessary
Not every case needs a child custody evaluation. It is certainly not required when two parents agree on all or substantially all of the parenting arrangements they will observe with their children.
The only time a child custody evaluation is typically necessary is when one or both parents accuse the other parent of domestic violence, child abuse, substance abuse, or when the parents are embroiled in constant disagreements and fighting about major decisions for the child, such as where he or she will attend school, and/or the amount of time their child will spend with each parent.
These high conflict child custody cases typically result in a lot of witnesses, police reports, medical records, and the like. In these cases, a judge may want to hear the opinion of an expert on what child custody orders the court should issue.
Who Does Child Custody Evaluations
Child custody evaluations are typically conducted by doctorate level mental health professionals. They are typically psychologists or psychiatrists. The Maricopa County Superior Court has a list, referred to as a Mental Health Roster, that contains the names and contact information for mental health providers who perform child custody evaluations.
You are not required to choose someone from the list exclusively and could hire any mental health expert who has sufficient knowledge, education, and/or experience to qualify as an expert witness. Alternatively, the court has employees and contract workers who are typically master level social workers who can perform a more limited family assessment at a fraction of the cost of doing a full child custody evaluation.
What Happens in a Child Custody Evaluation
An expert conducting a child custody evaluation must investigate all of the child custody factors set out in Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-403. To do so, that expert must conduct interviews of both parents, their children, and any other person who may have contact with the children on a regular basis or has information relevant to the custody evaluation.
They will also review any documentation provided by the parties or their attorneys, such as school and medical records, police and medical reports, and communications between the parents that is relevant to the evaluation. There is really no end to all of the documentation that may be relevant and provided to the expert.
Another important part of the child custody evaluation is the psychological testing that will take place in the evaluation. In almost all cases, only the parents undergo a series of psychological tests. These tests may accomplish a couple of goals. The first goal is to determine if either parent has any psychological problems that may impact their ability to parent the children or co-parent the children with the other parent.
The second purpose of psychological testing is to determine if the test results are consistent or inconsistent with the story each parent has told about the other parent in the child custody case. Intentional attempts by a parent to circumvent the psychological tests may also be relevant to whether one or both parents are being dishonest in the evaluation.
When the child custody evaluator is done with his or her investigation, they will issue a details written report. That report will contain summaries of the expert’s interview of all witnesses. The report will list all documents reviewed during the evaluation. It will also provide summaries of the results of the psychological testing that was performed.
The child custody report will then contain the expert’s thoughts on the various issues and will, lastly, contain the expert’s opinion on what child custody orders a judge should consider ordering in the case. It is important to know that the evaluator does not have the power to issue child custody orders. All he or she can do is to inform the judge of their opinion for the judge to independently determine what child custody orders are in the best interests.
Contact us today or call us at (480)305-8300 to schedule your consultation with one of our Scottsdale Arizona child custody attorneys regarding child custody issues, the divorce process or any other Arizona family law matter.
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Chris Hildebrand wrote this article about child custody evaluations in Arizona to ensure everyone has access to information about child custody laws in Arizona. Chris is a family law attorney at Hildebrand Law, PC. He has over 24 years of Arizona family law experience and has received multiple awards, including US News and World Report “Top Arizona Divorce Attorneys”, Phoenix Magazine “Top Divorce Law Firms”, and Arizona Foothills Magazine “Best of the Valley” award. He believes the policies and procedures he uses to get his clients through a child custody case should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and actually caring about what his clients are going through.