What You Need to Know about Custody Evaluations in North Carolina
Updated: Mar 29
If you’re experiencing a divorce and have children, you probably already understand how important it is to protect your time with your kids. It’s normal to feel stressed, confused, or unsure about the process, but Spidell Family Law can help. This article will briefly discuss custody evaluations in North Carolina, including what to expect and how to prepare.
Who Is Required to Undergo a Custody Evaluation?
When one parent has mental health concerns about the other parent, concerns that there is emotional abuse or manipulation by a parent toward the children, or concerns that one parent is experiencing some issue that is affecting their ability to parent, they may request a custody evaluation. A custody evaluation is not required for all North Carolina custody cases unless the judge orders it upon request of one party. However, in some cases, the judge may order the parties to undergo a child custody evaluation.
What Is a Child Custody Evaluation?
During a child custody evaluation, a trained mental health provider (usually a psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker) interviews each parent, observes them with the child(ren), and conducts psychological testing to help the court decide what custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child(ren). These recommendations are part of an official custody evaluation report that the court receives.
How Is Custody Evaluation Different from Mediation?
A custody evaluation can be ordered on a case-by-case basis, normally at the request of one party or by the judge. A neutral, trained third party conducts custody evaluations and typically makes a recommendation on the best interest of the children, as well as determines whether there are any hinderances to either parent’s parenting ability. Your lawyer will not be present during evaluations, and the third party does not make any final decisions about custody. The judge is still responsible for making a determination of what is in the children’s best interest.
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What Do Custody Evaluators Look for During an Assessment?
A custody evaluation focuses on the psychological well-being of all minor children involved, as well as any psychological issue a parent may be having that hinders their ability to parent. The evaluator observes parent-child interactions to learn about the relationships between them. These observations focus on parenting styles, attributes, family dynamics, and the psychological needs of minors as well as other variables influenced by both the culture and environment of the family unit.
Is a Custody Evaluation Worth It? How Much Do They Cost?
A custody evaluation can be beneficial if you want to show that there is a major parenting issue for the other parent, or to disprove any allegations against you. However, there are no guarantees that an evaluation will help you settle or win your case. If you need to take the next step and undergo a private assessment, it will require a significant out-of-pocket investment of up to a few thousand dollars.
Is There a Custody Evaluation Questionnaire? How Can I Prepare?
We recommend keeping it simple. Putting your best you forward — and dealing honestly with all involved in your custody case — are always your best bet. And, as with every other aspect of your divorce case, prioritize your child(ren)’s mental and emotional health throughout.
Keep these three tips in mind as you prepare for your evaluation.
1. Clean your home and dress your family appropriately to receive a visitor.
2. Manage expectations with your children. Let them know about the home visit and encourage them to be polite and honest with the evaluator.
3. Do not coach or encourage your child(ren) to lie to the evaluator, as this could have serious negative consequences for your case.
4. Be honest about any parenting concerns you have about the other parent.
5. Be honest about your own mental health history and do not try to conceal information.
Who Will Determine the Outcome of a Psychological Custody Evaluation?
It’s important to know that the custody evaluator's report is not legally binding; however, it is submitted to the court. The judge will review the report and use the report to inform their findings regarding permanent custody arrangements.
Are You Preparing for a Custody Evaluation?
Have you been ordered to complete a custody evaluation? The legal team at Spidell Family Law can help you navigate the process. We're here to answer your questions, guide you through best practices, and support you from start to finish.