A custody evaluation "should be" a very thorough examination of all family members for the purpose of making recommendations to the court about a parenting plan (also known as a custodial arrangement) that will be in the best interests of the children involved. Unless specified by a court order, a custody evaluation may or may not include a psychological evaluation. In general, a custody evaluation needs to consider the nature of the past and present relationships between the parents and children, the abilities of the parents to provide for their children physically, emotionally and financially as well as any deficits and/or impediments that might interfere with a parent's ability to care for their children and/or maintain a healthy relationship with their children.

The scope of the custody evaluation can also vary. This is largely dependent on the wording of the court order, the choice of professional who will be conducting the custody evaluation and the cost involved. Although it seems reasonable to expect that the more trained and experienced an evaluator is, the better the quality the custody evaluation should be. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. As in other matters, it is very important to know what you are getting into and to make sure that the custody evaluator doing the assessment is properly trained and experienced.

A comprehensive custody evaluation "should include" the following elements:

  • detailed interviews of both parents and/or step parents/new partners

  • detailed interviews of children four year old and over

  • psychological testing of both parents and/or step parents/new partners utilizing multiple and corroborative measures

  • observation sessions between the children and each parent in a neutral setting and utilizing a unique stimulus challenge

  • visits at each parent's residence with the children present

  • collateral interviews of individuals who have knowledge of the children and of the parents in their parenting capacity

  • a review of all of the relevant court documents and materials related to the case

  • if the children are school aged, a review of report cards and attendance records during the current and previous years

  • a criminal record check of parents, step parents or any other adult who is considered a party to the custody dispute

  • a review of driver's record abstracts of parents, step parents or any other adult who is considered a party to the custody dispute

A custody evaluation following the above protocol is labor intensive, time consuming, expensive and stress provoking. Depending on the complexity of the case, a custody evaluator could spend anywhere from 20-40+ hours completing an evaluation and writing the report. A custody evaluation of this type could cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 or more.

Need More Information?

Everyone's concerns are unique. For that reason, Dr. Reena Sommer invites you to call her without obligation for a 15-minute consultation to receive some initial direction about your specific concerns. You can reach Dr. Sommer directly by calling her at 281.534.3923.

*FYI: We are not attorneys nor are we members of any bar in any state. We do not offer legal advice nor do we present ourselves as doing so. However, we do help attorneys to better represent their clients through our services as divorce strategists and divorce consultants.

Dr. Reena Sommer & Associates PLLC
Houston, Texas
PHONE: 281.534.3923