In divorce cases where children are involved, there is a high likelihood of extensive custody battles. Many of these disagreements center around time-sharing schedules and child support. However, there are some cases where the result of a custody determination becomes dire.

There may be situations where there is a clear risk that one parent cannot raise a child. If this should happen, there are steps to assign custody rights to the appropriate parent or guardian. Some of these risks can include improper living situations, substance abuse, or alleged domestic violence. In this case, a path the courts most often dictate in determining custody rights is to pursue a child custody evaluation.

Child custody evaluations in Florida, or anywhere else, are neither simple nor inexpensive. However, sometimes they are necessary to keep the best interests of the children at heart. Read more below for answers to child custody evaluation questions and what you can expect during the evaluation process.

Full Custody in Florida

Before beginning, it’s important to note that the Florida Courts are generally more in favor of partial custody than full custody. It is usually in the child’s best interest to share time with both parents. In a partial custody arrangement, each individual gets a set amount of parenting time while engaging in a predetermined parenting plan.

Unfortunately, there are cases when this may not be safe or practical. In these cases, an individual can request a custody evaluation under Evidence Code 730. In some cases, this evaluation may be directly ordered by a judge due to new information arising within a hearing.

However, it’s important to note that this code section is not limited to family law. It is used in other types of law as well, making it open-ended. It is crucial to ensure the court’s language stipulates that an evaluation is necessary and what kind of assessment to administer.

If you are making the request, ensure that it is specific. Failure to provide specifics may lead the opposing family law attorney to argue against the need for an assessment.

Why an Evaluation is Necessary

There are several instances where evaluation may be necessary, including:

  • Suspected child abuse 
  • Suspected domestic violence 
  • Improper living conditions 
  • Questionable parenting strategies
  • Mental health considerations
  • A parent who is moving out of state 
  • Inability to agree on a time-sharing schedule

Who Will Administer the Evaluation?

The individual evaluating your case is a mental health professional who the court appoints. These individuals are licensed to perform psychological testing (such as psychologists and clinical social workers). Their role is to objectively assess the overall situation of the child’s home life and custody arrangements. Following their assessment, they will determine what might be the best course of action to take.

What is Involved in an Evaluation?

The next question is, what process will the mental health professional utilize to conduct and complete a 730 evaluation. While the final evaluation criteria vary per case, some of the standard methods of assessment include the following:

  • Several interviews with each parent individually 
  • Several interviews with the child, or children, affected
  • Potential interviews with other individuals in the child’s life, including family, close friends, neighbors, or teachers from their school
  • Perform home visits to observe parent-child interactions and parenting practices
  • Perform psychological evaluations to screen for mental illness, if any, when necessary

These evaluations aim to form a complete and objective assessment of the minor children’s home-life affected by divorce. Through these assessments, a mental health professional can assist in determining which parent should have more significant or full custody. They will also provide their recommendation as to which method of parenting is best for the child.

An Attorney Who Can Help

Although the process of a child custody evaluation is sometimes necessary, it can take a toll on a family. Remember that the purpose of an evaluation is to consider the interest of the child. It is essential to have caring advisors to walk you through this and other processes relating to your family law case.

Dave Roy Law is an experienced firm focusing on family law issues. Contact us at 561-729-0095 to schedule an appointment with one of our West Palm Beach located attorneys. We will provide the guidance and support you need for your case.