In Utah divorce cases that involve hotly disputed custody issues, the court often orders the party to undergo a custody evaluation with a qualified individual who has specialized training in determining the best interests of a child.
The Custody Evaluation
When parties are ordered to do a custody evaluation they are also ordered to cooperate with the evaluator so that he or she can gain as much information as possible to make an appropriate recommendation to the court. The evaluator will conduct personal interviews with the parties and the children; have the parties do certain psychological evaluations; refer to collateral sources such as the parties’ individual therapists, friends, clergy, and others who may have pertinent information; visit the home of each parent; witness each parent engage with the child; and otherwise gather information about the parent-child relationship.
Once the evaluator has gathered the information he will apply the information into a set of criteria to make a conclusion. Those conclusions are shared with the parties and the court and the parties can use the information to further settlement negotiations or if they set a trial date the evaluator may be called as a witness to advise the court on what he believes would be the best situation for the child.
The Custody Evaluation Conference
Many courts require the parties to engage in a custody evaluation conference. This is usually held at the courthouse in a conference room and then the parties are to report to the court on their efforts to settle the case and if not settlement can be reached whether the parties are ready to go to trial. At the conference the custody evaluator is present and sometimes a third party mediator is present to assist the parties in working toward resolution.
When the parties first arrive they typically appear before a court commissioner to make a report. The commissioner will then ask the parties to go to the conference room, usually near the judge’s chambers, to try to hash out a settlement.
Custody evaluations can be very expensive, but sometimes they have to be done. If you have additional concerns or questions about a custody evaluation, give our Utah family law attorneys a call. at 801.413.1753.