Custody and/or Parenting Time Evaluations

What:  Custody and parenting time studies include joint and individual interviews, parent-child and home observations, child interviews, background checks, reference reviews, and other collateral contacts 

Who:  Residents of Lane County with a court order for a custody study 

How:  Both parents first attend separate orientations before the study begins 

Cost:  $1500

Why an Evaluation?

Parents sometimes have disagreements about how to share decision-making and parenting time with their children. Intense feelings that arise can make it difficult to be objective about the best interests of the children. In recognition of this reality, one or both parents may request an order from the Court directing them to participate in a custody and/or parenting time evaluation. On occasion, the Court will order parents to participate in an evaluation without prompting from either parent.

What is the Goal?

A custody and/or parenting time evaluation is intended to ensure the best possible outcome for children. The evaluator provides a written recommendation to parents and their attorneys. If parents still cannot agree on the parenting plan, the Court may consider the evaluation to make its decision.

Who performs the Evaluation?

Members of the Mediation & Restorative Services staff conduct the evaluation.  Evaluators have advanced training in custody evaluations, mediation, and domestic violence, as well as an in-depth knowledge of custody and parenting plans. Evaluators have also earned, at a minimum, a master’s degree in a related field.

Evaluator Role

An evaluator’s role is to assess families and make recommendations about the custody and/or parenting time of minor children. Evaluators are impartial and do not take the side of either parent. Their primary focus is on the best interests of the child.

Evaluators as Mandatory Reporters

In their role as evaluators, program staff are mandatory reporters. As such they are required to report to the appropriate agency any information they receive concerning harm to a child or adult or outstanding criminal warrants against either parent.

What do Evaluators Assess?

The assessment is largely based on evaluation of the following factors:

·         The child’s needs based on age and developmental level, attachment to each parent, individual personalities, thoughts, and feelings;

·         The ability, stability, mental health, and maturity of each adult as a parent;

·         The desirability of continuing existing relationships and environments;

·         The relationship between the parents and each parent’s ability to support the child’s relationship with the other parent;

·         The plan presented for the day-to-day needs of the child; and

·         Any patterns of substance, child, or domestic abuse.

What is the Process?

It is customary for an evaluator to interview each parent alone. When appropriate, the evaluator may also observe each parent together with the children and spend time with the children without parents present. A home visit is not always necessary. With parents’ consent, the evaluator may seek information from professionals in the community such as teachers, mental health professionals, and other agency staff. Evaluators may contact personal references if deemed relevant. Information provided during the evaluation is not confidential and may appear in a written report to the Court.

In most cases the evaluator will issue a report summarizing the family dynamics, addressing the parents’ concerns, and recommending a parenting plan that will best meet the needs of the children. A copy of this report will be sent to parents’ attorneys. Parents without attorneys will also receive a copy of the evaluation. The evaluator may be called to testify in Court.

Parents’ Responsibilities

Parents are responsible for paying their share of the evaluation fee of $1500. They must also cooperate with the evaluator by providing information and access to documents as requested. Parents must notify the evaluator of any changes in contact information, attorney representation, and hearing dates. It is extremely important that that parents attend all appointments as scheduled. If attendance becomes an issue, the evaluator may terminate the evaluation and refer the case back to the Court.

First Steps

Once Mediation & Restorative Services receives a copy of the Court order, program staff will contact each parent to set individual appointments with the evaluator. At the first appointment, the evaluator will review the process with the parent, and parents will be asked to sign a form indicating their understanding of the evaluation procedure. Thereafter, the evaluator will begin collecting information for the evaluation.

Letter to Parent
Letter to Attorney
Consent to Obtain and/or Release Information and Documents
Informed Consent to Participate in a Custody and Parenting Time Evaluation
Parent Questionnaire Fillable Form
Potential Collateral Contacts Fillable Form
Step-Parent Questionnaire Fillable Form

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