Divorce is stressful for everyone, but especially for those in the military. While military divorces certainly are handled differently, there’s one aspect of divorce that is handled almost uniformly: child custody. This is because the focus of a child custody dispute is on finding resolution that supports the child’s best interests. While it’s hoped that a child’s parents can figure out what sort of child custody and visitation arrangement supports those best interests, sometimes that simply isn’t the case. When parents can’t come to an agreement on these matters, the decision will be left in the hands of a judge.
A judge doesn’t know you, your child, or your child’s other parent. The judge also doesn’t know anything about your family history or each parent’s living arrangement. In other words, judges who hear these cases are often flying blind. Pretty scary? Yes. But the good news is that family law judges typically do their best to obtain information before making such an important decision. One way they do this is by ordering a child custody evaluation.
The purpose of this evaluation is to give the court a clear picture of the family’s circumstances and make recommendations regarding child custody, often referred to as conservatorship in Texas. To do complete their reports, child custody evaluators must investigate certain elements that are identified by law. Amongst them are interviews with the parents and child, observation of parenting time between the child and each parent, interviews with some siblings depending on their ages, reviewing the child’s school and medical records, and an assessment of each parent’s home. The court can also add evaluation requirements, which mean that these evaluations are usually pretty through.
You don’t have to agree with every aspect of a child custody evaluation. In fact, you can challenge its validity in open court. Or maybe the report supports your position, in which case you need to know how to use it to your advantage. But you have to be strategic and prepared before arguing your child custody case in court, even if there’s a favorable child custody evaluation in play. So don’t leave your child’s wellbeing to chance. Instead, consider working closely with a legal advocate of your choosing to put forth the strongest arguments possible in support of your child’s best interests.