Disputes over child custody, parenting time or visitation are often referred to third party professionals to investigation the matter fully and make a recommendation to the court.1 This process often leads to settlement and more streamlined trials. However, a court, who must use its discretion and make a child custody determination is not bound by an evaluator’s recommendations, but is likely to follow them.
Custody cases usually involve a great-deal of emotion and “he-said, she-said.” For this reason, the key point of the evaluator—making a best interests recommendation to the court--is difficult and time consuming. Evaluators are not perfect and there is a great deal a parent or third party going to a custody evaluation can do to make the evaluator’s task easier. This may result in a more complete evaluation, report to the court, and more comprehensive recommendations.
What follows are items that parties sometimes take to custody evaluations to aid the evaluator:
- Letters from people who have observed the given party and their parenting with the child.
- List of names and address of people the custody evaluator may want or need to speak with in the course of the process, including doctors, teachers, and babysitters.
- Documents demonstrating key issues, which may range from photos to medical records.
- Logs and other lists memorializing custody, parenting time and visitation issues that have arisen between the parties.
- Formal materials related to the parties and/or children, including CPS reports, police reports, and counseling/therapy records.
We hope you find this blog post on information useful to understanding the process of a custody evaluation; and in doing so, aid the depth Indiana lawyers and judges go to make sure the children’s best interests are met. This blog post was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C., whose advocates practice across the state.
- A good general discussion of custody evaluations is set forth in a recent case of the Indiana Court of Appeals, In re the Guardianship of C.R., et al., ___ N.E.3d ___ (2014 WL 6686623).