Court-ordered child custody evaluations are conducted by trained experts in order to investigate a parent’s ability to provide care for their children. It is also used to determine if that respective parent’s home is suitable for their children. These evaluations entail essential and important evidence for courts to consider when making decisions in contested child custody matters, such as during a divorce.
On March 1, 2016, significant changes to child custody evaluations will be implemented. The new law is designed to strengthen protocol, provide additional evidence as part of the assessment process, raise the qualification requirements for evaluators, and strictly regulates evaluator conflict of interest and bias.
Some noteworthy changes are as follows:
- Replacing the term “social study” with “child custody evaluation”
- Evaluators must have a master’s degree or a medical license with board certification in psychiatry, not just a bachelor’s
- Courts in counties with less than 500,000 people and where there are no professionals who meet the new requirements available, the court may appoint an “otherwise qualified” evaluator either after a hearing or on the agreement of the parties
- A judge has the option to request evaluations of any other issue, aside from the required evaluation of the child, the parents and the parental residence, that affects the best interest of the child
- A child custody evaluation may be ordered by the court after notice and a hearing, or upon agreement of the parties
- Additional procedures and guidelines to evaluators about professional and evidentiary standards, recordkeeping requirements, appropriate avenues of inquiry, and development of final report
- Stricter disqualification standards for evaluators in order to eliminate conflict of interest and bias
If you need help with a custody issue, do not hesitate to contact Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers for qualified help from our Collin County divorce and family law attorneys.For a complimentary consultation with our family law office, call (940) 293-2313 today!