Sometimes even when one or both spouses put forth their best efforts, they cannot agree on a child custody arrangement or visitation schedule. When this sort of impasse occurs, Illinois family law courts may order a child custody evaluation, a process by which the court can determine which child custody arrangement is in the child’s best interest.
What Exactly Happens During a Dupage County Child Custody Evaluation?
A child custody evaluation, a process governed by Illinois statute 750 ILCS 5/604.5, works in the following way:
First the court orders an evaluation. The court may appoint the evaluator on its own or in response to a motion recommending an evaluator by either spouse in a divorce case. Other parties, such as the child’s attorney or guardian ad litem, may also recommend a child custody evaluation. The order specifies the time and place of the proposed evaluation and designates the evaluator. A child custody evaluator is typically a psychologist or psychiatrist who has been specially trained in child custody-related issues. The evaluator is usually paid by the party requesting the evaluator but regardless of who pays, the evaluator is tasked with acting as a neutral party in the proceedings.
Second, the evaluator meets with the child to interview the child and conduct psychological tests. The evaluator also interviews and tests each parent individually and observes how each parent interacts with this child. In addition, the evaluator may collect background information about the case by interviewing contacts, friends, and family members of both parents, and by interviewing the child’s contacts such as the child’s doctor or teachers or by reviewing documents related to the case.
Third, the child custody evaluator prepares a detailed report for presentation to the family law judge. In the report, the evaluator recommends a custody and visitation schedule that the evaluator believes may serve the child’s best interests. Child custody evaluators often address topics such as the parent-child relationships, the skills and schedules of each parent, the child’s psychological health and needs and any history of substance abuse or domestic violence that may be present in their reports. The completed report must be sent to the requesting party within 21 days of the date in which the evaluation was completed.
Finally, the evaluator may be asked by either party or the family law judge to testify about the evaluator’s child custody report and recommendations in court. Usually a judge will give a high degree of weight to the custody evaluator’s professional opinions and recommendations concerning a suitable child custody arrangement.
Should I Request a Child Custody Evaluation?
Requesting a child custody evaluation may seem like a thorough, prudent way of collecting favorable information in a child custody proceeding. However, ordering a child custody evaluation can be time consuming, stressful for the child and other parties involved, and may cost the parties up to several thousand dollars. For reasons like these, Illinois courts may only agree to order a custody evaluation after other efforts to reach an agreement have failed.
Attorneys at Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C. have extensive experience in Dupage County child custody negotiations as well as related expertise in potentially overlapping areas such as paternity law and alternative dispute resolution throughout northern Illinois. If you would like to speak to a knowledgeable divorce attorney about how a child custody evaluation might relate to your child custody proceedings, contact us at (877) 889-4515 to schedule a meeting.