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How Can You Challenge A Child Custody Evaluation Report?

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If you and your spouse have been unable to agree on custody and a visitation schedule for your child, the court may have ordered a child custody evaluation. Once it's over, and the evaluator has submitted the report, what happens if the evaluation doesn't go your way? You don't have to give up custody of your child without a fight. You can -- and should -- challenge the evaluation if you think that it is unfair or flat-out wrong. Here's what you should know.

You can challenge the evaluator's skill.

A child custody evaluator's qualifications can vary greatly depending on where he or she is working. Some courts insist that evaluators be licensed psychologists while others allow people who have trained specifically for the job of an evaluator. Either way, your attorney can start to challenge the report by challenging the skills and experience of the evaluator through a number of different means:

  • obtaining a copy of the evaluator's qualifications and education

  • asking the evaluator to explain his or her training when it comes to dealing with children the same age as your child

  • asking the evaluator to explain his or her experience working with children of the same age as your child and families in your particular situation

  • asking the evaluator to explain what studies he or she relied on when forming recommendations for the court

  • asking the evaluator to cite the specific studies or publications he or she referenced when making the recommendations

  • having the evaluator testify to how long he or she has been working as an evaluator

All of these things speak to how well-qualified and well-researched his or her opinion is and could show potential weaknesses in his or her experience.

You can look for other areas of weakness.

There are also other areas that your attorney can ask questions about while seeking to challenge the evaluator's opinion. While there are many professional, fair-minded evaluators, there are those that are professionally sloppy or outright biased. Your attorney can often illustrate problem areas during cross-examination with several tactics:

  • having the evaluator testify about his or her previous recommendations in other, similar cases in order to show a bias toward either mothers or fathers

  • looking for biases in the evaluator's history against homosexuality, certain religions, or any other significant factor in your case

  • looking for evidence that the evaluator "favored" the other parent in some way by excusing his or her bad behavior while demonizing yours

  • questioning the validity of psychological tests that the evaluator allowed his or her staff to either administer or score

  • showing that the evaluator spent more time with you, indicating that you were subjected to more intensive testing than your spouse for some reason

  • showing that the evaluator spent too little time with you, indicating that you weren't given a fair opportunity to demonstrate your relationship with your child or your parenting skills

There is absolutely no reason to give up custody of your child because of one evaluator's opinion, especially if you believe that he or she didn't do a fair job. Talk to your lawyer about what you can do to challenge the evaluation in family court.