April, 25, 2013, Lansing, MI- Almost 50 percent of all marriages in the country end in divorce, and while there are many issues a couple going through this must deal with child custody is often the most contentious.
Divorcing couples have different custody arrangements they can decide on. Some couples decide that they want to share custody so their children spend equal amounts of time with each parent. They can also choose an arrangement that gives one parent primary custody and gives the other parent visitation rights.
Whenever possible estranged couples are encouraged to try and come up with acceptable custody and visitation arrangements through mediation or other settlement efforts without interference with the courts. However there are times when couples are unable to come up with satisfactory custody arrangements and ask the court to decide.
In contentious custody battles, Michigan courts are tasked with deciding which arrangement is in the best interest of the child or children. If a couple has exhausted all their avenues for resolving a custody dispute, the court may order a child custody evaluation to help with their final decision.
A child custody evaluation is carried out by a psychologist or other mental health professional who will observe each spouse’s parenting skills and interactions with their children and make recommendations to the court about custody and visitation. Their job is to objectively asses what is in the best interests of the child or children.
Custody evaluations often entail at least two interviews with each parent and child. These interviews are designed so that the evaluator can gather information about the parents. An evaluator will also observe the interactions between the parents and children. Some of these evaluators employ psychological testing to get better understand each parent’s emotional functioning and nurturing skills.
Some evaluators make home visits so they can review each parent’s ability to care for the child. In-home evaluations are more typical when the children are under the age of six. This allows the evaluator to observe the family unit in a more natural setting.
It is crucial that parents are honest with their evaluator and follow any recommendations they have, since the information they gather will be used to help the courts decide what the final custody arrangement will be.
Once the evaluator has gathered all the information they need, they will give their final report to the court. In addition to following recommendations from a custody evaluator, a family law judge may also choose to ask a child, if they are old enough, which parent they want to live with before making their final decision.
Child custody is one of the hardest issues for parents to deal with, but an attorney who specializes in family law can help take some of the pain out of this process and expertly negotiate satisfactory custody arrangements and financial settlements. Michigan divorce attorney Stu Shafer has helped many families peacefully resolve their divorce-related issues so they can move on with their lives.