Divorce can be very difficult, especially when there are children involved. If there is a dispute over custody, the court has a duty to ensure that the child is placed in a safe environment with a qualified parent.
In these situations, a parenting evaluator plays an important role. This court-appointed official is charged with determining what custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child. An evaluation is ordered in situations where parents are unable to reach an agreement or there are issues of substance abuse, physical abuse or other significant allegations against either parent.
Parenting evaluators are trained mental health professionals, often with a Ph.D., who have education, background and training in such areas as child development, family systems or child and adult psychopathology.
A parenting evaluator is not a designated child advocate, such as a guardian ad litem. He or she does not represent the child but rather is responsible for investigating the parents and the child, through psychological testing and other means, in order to determine the parents’ respective strengths and weaknesses as well as how these may affect the welfare of the child.
The parenting evaluator considers information from multiple sources, including:
- Any criminal convictions
- Current involvement of law enforcement
- Direct observation
- Written documentation from the parties
- Review of the pleadings
- Face-to-face interviews of each party
- Written input from collateral sources
- Psychological testing
In reporting to the court, parenting evaluators often make recommendations as to various therapeutic resources that may help foster a healthier family system.
Parenting evaluators will charge either an hourly rate or a flat fee. The total fee charged may not exceed the established fee limit without the court’s approval. Even so, the fees can be quite high, sometimes even exceeding $10,000 depending upon the issues presented. It is always simpler and less costly for divorcing spouses to work out their own parenting plan with their attorneys’ advice and guidance.
If you need legal counsel regarding a child custody arrangement or any other divorce-related issue, the experienced Washington family law attorneys at Bottimore & Associates, P.L.L.C. in Tacoma can help. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, call us at 253-272-5653 or contact us online.