If you and your spouse are going through a divorce in Maryland or the District of Columbia and if you are disputing various child custody issues, one option that your divorce court judge has is to order a child custody evaluation. It is also possible for one or both parents to request a child custody evaluation.
Read on as the Maryland family law attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas Stahl explain more on this.
An evaluation is conducted by a qualified person who works with child and family services. The person is usually qualified with various skills, degrees, education, and training in handling child and family issues. The Evaluator is a neutral party to the divorce proceedings and is relied upon by the divorce court in making child custody decisions.
The evaluation process starts with in-take forms being completed and interviews being conducted at the offices of the family services division. Psychological testing is often involved. Typically, the interviews are done both with the family members together and separately. If the children involved are old enough, then they will also be interviewed. Generally, there is also at least one home visit with each parent where the Evaluator spends an hour or so observing the child or children with each parent at their respective residences. Where appropriate, the Evaluator also makes contact with school officials, family therapists (if any), governmental agencies (if there are government benefits or criminal history at issue), and others — like family members — who may be listed by the parents are references.
From this information, the Evaluator prepares a psychosocial history of the family and its members and generates opinions on the child custody questions. Often, a written report is prepared by the Evaluator (although not always). The final step is oral testimony given by the Evaluator in court before the judge and the parties and their attorneys. The whole process can take several weeks to complete.
Aside from helping the divorce court make its decisions, a child custody evaluation can also be helpful and useful if the parents want to come to an agreement or try child custody mediation.
Not all divorce proceedings need a child custody evaluation. In both Maryland and the District of Columbia, parents must complete a parenting plan as part of their divorce. One “warning sign” that a child custody evaluation is needed is if the parents cannot agree on a parenting plan or the submitted parenting plan is incomplete. Other circumstances that suggest a child custody evaluation is needed include the following:
- The parents want and request a child custody evaluation
- The parents live in residences that are very far away from each other
- One or both parents are accused of being an “unfit parent”
- Criminal behavior is known or is being alleged
- There are past or current allegations of child endangerment and/or neglect
- There has been, or it is alleged that domestic abuse or violence has occurred
- There are multiple children with expressed desires to live with different parents
- There exists substance abuse or addiction issues with one or both parents
- And more
Maryland And D.C. Child Custody Lawyers
Contact the seasoned and experienced Maryland and D.C. family law lawyers at The Law Offices of Thomas Stahl for more information. We have the skills and expertise you need. We have proven experience with family law for Maryland and the District of Columbia. Schedule a consultation today or call us at (410) 696-4326 or (202) 964-7280. We have offices in Columbia, MD, and Washington, DC.