Some divorcing parents can work out a custody agreement without the intervention of the court. However, where there are disagreements, court proceedings may need to take place. In such an instance, the judge will decide which parent gets custody, and how much time the other parent will be able to have with their child. To help the judge decide, he or she might order a custody evaluation. This will be done by a ‘friend of the court,’ usually a mental health professional with specialist training and experience in legal family matters.
How Is The Custody Evaluation Handled In Michigan
There may be some small differences in which individual cases are handled, but generally speaking, you can expect the following.
A custody evaluator is chosen
In some cases, the judge might assign a custody evaluator, but it might be that he or she gives you a choice of two or three people to choose from. Your lawyer will give you advice on who you should choose, and they will give you their reasons why they think they are better equipped to handle your case. Your lawyer will look at the evaluator’s experience, for example, and they will consider who they have favored before, be it the father or the mother.
Hopefully, both you and your spouse will agree on the same evaluator. If not, you could ask the court for more options (though they might not accept your request), or you could decide to hire a private evaluator. Be mindful, however. A private evaluator will cost you a lot more than somebody who is court-appointed, so this might not be the best option for you. Your lawyer will advise you further.
The evaluation process takes place
No matter who you choose, the process is usually the same.
- The evaluator will interview both you and your spouse. You can usually expect 3 planned visits from them
- The evaluator will spend time with each parent, watching how they interact with their child.
- The evaluator will gather information from external sources, such as your child’s teachers, your doctor, and other witnesses.
- The evaluator will look through your court file.
- The evaluator will use psychological testing, for both yourself and your spouse, and your children.
If you are concerned that your evaluator is unfairly biased towards your spouse, or that the questions you have been asked have been inappropriate, speak to your lawyer. They will then take the appropriate action to support your cause.
A final report is given
The evaluator will submit the report to all interested parties – yourself and your spouse, and the court.
The report will make recommendations about custody, time-sharing, and visitations, and perhaps a recommendation for a future re-evaluation. If both you and your spouse are in agreement, then great. That will negate the need for a messy court battle. If you aren’t happy, and a resolution can’t be made easily, then you will have to fight your case in court with the aid of your lawyer.
Get In Touch
If you are going through the Michigan custody evaluation process and need the support of a lawyer, perhaps for advice or to increase your parenting time in the custody agreement, get in touch. At Fowler & Williams, PLC, we have years of experience handling these types of cases and have the ability to help your cause. Call us today or use our contact form to get in touch with a member of our professional team.