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When is a custody evaluation required in a child custody dispute?

Child custody disputes are among the most emotional and hard-fought battles that California parents have. These can occur during a divorce or months or years later if one parent seeks greater or sole custody of a child. They can also occur if parents who were never married end their relationship.

If parents cannot agree on a custody or visitation plan on their own or via mediation, they may have to rely on the courts to make the decision. Since the court will need objective, unbiased information, they will order a custody evaluation. Usually, the evaluators are psychologists who have no relationship with the family. The attorneys for both parents usually are the ones who choose the evaluator.

Custody evaluations generally take several months to complete, and they are not inexpensive. They can run as high as $15,000 in the San Francisco area. The judge in the case will read the evaluator’s report and generally will base his or her decision on that, although he or she is under no obligation to do so. That decision is final.

The evaluation is a comprehensive process. The evaluator interviews both parents and children individually as well as others in the children’s lives. This may include teachers, nannies and relatives. The evaluator’s job is not to determine who is the better parent, but what custody situation would be in the best interests of the children.

At Schoenberg Family Law Group, P.C., we can help parents who feel that they have no choice but to go this route to gain the custody they are seeking. However, we strongly encourage them to seek out-of-court solutions, such as mediation. These are not only less expensive, but less stressful on everyone — particularly on the children involved.

With more than a quarter century of experience in family law, we can give you the options available to help you resolve your custody situation and advise you on the best one to achieve what you are seeking and what is healthiest for your children. Call us or contact us online to schedule a consultation to find out how we can help you.

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