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What does a court-ordered child evaluation mean in California?

Determining and keeping custody of a child in any state can be difficult, both emotionally and logistically. Regardless of whether or not a person has had to fight for custody of a child, a court can order child custody evaluations in the state of California.

What are child custody evaluations?

These child custody evaluations – otherwise known as investigations or assessments – will be done by either law enforcement officers, California Child Protective Services, or a combination of the two. With these investigations, the court is looking at the environment the child is living in and determining if it’s in the best interest of the child to stay there.

A child custody evaluation might be ordered by the court when determining child custody and visitation rights in a divorce, or in a situation where Child Protective Services has previously been involved. In these evaluations, the investigator is considering the health, safety, welfare and best interest of the child. They will look at things such as the environment, as well as relationships the child has with that guardian and other adults in the home.

What rights do parents/guardians have in a court-ordered evaluation?

Investigators are required to give a written explanation that covers the reason for the evaluation, as well as the scope. For example, an evaluation to determine visitation might have a different checklist than an evaluation to determine full or part-time custody.

During the investigation, the evaluator will observe the parent/guardian interacting with the child if it’s appropriate. Generally, they will remain neutral and not provide feedback until their evaluation has concluded.

Every evaluation looks different based on the specifics of why the evaluation was requested. If you’re worried about court-ordered child custody evaluations in child custody or visitation hearings, reach out to a family attorney today.