Some might look at the decision between a public child custody evaluator (court ordered or county service) or a private custody evaluator as the difference between an assembly line process and a specialized process. The truth of the matter is, in our experience, it’s a crap-shoot no matter which avenue you take.
Oftentimes, the court-connected or public custody evaluator will be significantly less expensive than a private one. It is also typical that the process with the public custody evaluator will be a more streamlined process while the private custody evaluation takes a bit longer and is more involved.
It’s very common in high conflict child custody battles for the parents to be unwilling or unable to resolve their disputes. More and more, the court ordered custody evaluation is almost part of the process regardless of the circumstances. If you come to court – you get ordered for an evaluation. Once ordered, you’re faced with the choice to go with a public custody evaluator (usually who is working as an agent of the court or county) or a private custody evaluator.
It’s normal for a person’s initial response to figure that having a qualified private professional for the job is the way to go. After all, don’t you “get what you pay for?” Unfortunately, not necessarily. All of the education, credentials, years of experience, and a wall full of diplomas and certifications won’t remove the inherent biases that still seem to be so pervasive among those working within the family court system.
The court appointed custody evaluators have some credentials, too. However, you typically don’t get to review and select the individual that you feel is most suited for your case. You go into the “lottery” and you get who you get. You won’t know who is assigned your case. You won’t know their qualifications until you spend a good deal of time in the pricey first session going over the particulars. Finally, there isn’t much you can do if you’re not comfortable with your assigned custody evaluator.
While those concerns are justified, don’t think that you doing your due diligence on studying the experience, education, and qualifications does much more than educate you about – their experience, education, and qualifications.
Always ask for their CV (curriculum vitae) which summarizes a professionals education, academic, and teaching background as a minimum. In some jurisdictions, there may be minimum required qualifications for your custody evaluator to be licensed. Private evaluators often work with within stricter guidelines and standards while also working in a more structured environment. They are often held to high standards of excellence and are supervised by a community of similarly employed professionals.
The bottom line is that the above is a whole lot of words that yield an unpopular conclusion – you can do all the research you want, but very little of your investigation into a child custody evaluator’s background will yield any clues as to their biases, how often they rule in favor of a mother versus a father, their fairness, their objectivity, etc. You may be fortunate enough to have a board of professionals that would be a place to discover the status of their license/practice or if there are records of formal complaints against them and the outcome.
It’s best for you to learn that with so little meaningful information to go on with respect to any individual custody evaluator – it’s how you prepare and handle yourself that gives you the best possible outcome. We’ve offered many quality articles about child custody evaluations and you can scan our category by clicking here: Custody Evaluations