Georgia law gives judges the authority to order a psychological evaluation in child custody cases. Judges make custody decisions based on a child’s best interest. However, a psychological evaluation provides vital information that helps the judge decide custody matters in some cases.

Interested parties may request a psychological evaluation in a custody case, including either parent, a Guardian ad Litem, or an attorney. The judge may order an evaluation of just the child or the entire family. 

Generally, the evaluation is performed by an independent professional that does not represent or work for either side. The goal is to provide an impartial assessment for the court to use in determining custody matters.

What Happens During a Psychological Evaluation in a Georgia Custody Case?

A court-appointed psychologist, therapist, or other mental health professional conducts the psychological evaluation. The evaluator takes several steps to gather information, including but not limited to:

  • Interviewing the child individually and as part of a family meeting
  • Interviewing each parent
  • Observing how the family members interact together
  • Interviewing adults in the child’s life, including doctors, teachers, coaches, step-parents, neighbors, babysitters, extended family members, and other individuals involved with the child and family
  • Reviewing activities that the child participates in, such as sports, clubs, and other extracurricular activities
  • Conducting scheduled and random home, school, or daycare visits
  • Reviewing medical, school, psychiatric, and other records for the child
  • Researching each parent’s fitness and involvement in the child’s upbringing 

The court-ordered custody evaluator compiles a developmental history for the child. They also create assessments based on their findings of the child’s developmental, emotional, and physical needs. They analyze which parent can best provide for the child’s needs.

The custody evaluator prepares and submits a report to the court. The attorneys for each parent receive copies of the report. 

It is important for parents to understand that communication with the evaluator is not privileged. Anything they say to the custody evaluator may be included in the final report and used by the evaluator when making their opinions known to the court. 

What Happens if the Parents Dispute the Findings of the Psychological Evaluation?

Parents are encouraged to work together to resolve the custody dispute. They may use the information contained in the psychological evaluation to develop a parenting plan that meets their child’s needs. 

However, either parent can dispute the conclusions of the custody evaluation. A parent may submit evidence challenging the custody evaluator’s recommendations. However, it’s up to the judge to decide whether to rely on the opinions and recommendations provided by the psychological evaluation. 

Who Pays for a Psychological Evaluation in a Child Custody Case?

Generally, the parents are responsible for paying the fees charged for the psychological evaluation. The court may order each parent to contribute equally to the cost. A judge may also order the parties to contribute to the cost of the evaluation based on their income levels.

If either party requests the custody evaluator to appear in court and testify on their behalf, that party is responsible for paying the evaluator for the court appearance. 

How Do You Prepare for a Child Custody Psychological Evaluation? 

You and your child custody attorney will discuss ways to prepare for the psychological evaluation. 

Some topics your attorney may cover with you include:

  • Avoid speaking negatively about your child’s other parent with the evaluator
  • If you have concerns about the fitness of your child’s other parent, your attorney can help you craft a statement to provide to the evaluator
  • Treat the child custody evaluator respectfully and do not interfere with their job
  • Dress appropriately whenever you meet with the custody evaluator
  • Maintain a log of all visitations with your child, including activities you engage in when you are together
  • Maintain a positive attitude 
  • Avoid becoming defensive or angry
  • Cooperate with the custody evaluator and provide requested information promptly
  • Make a list of adults that can provide positive information about your role as a parent 

If you have questions or concerns about a psychological evaluation, consider getting the help of a lawyer for guidance and reassurance. It is common to be nervous as you go through the process. However, with your attorney’s help, you can make the evaluation a positive experience for you and your child.

To learn more and get the help you deserve, call our divorce & family law firm at (404) 594-2143 or reach out to Crystal Wright Law online by visiting our contact us page.
You can also visit our law firm at 440 S. Perry Street Suite 105, Lawrenceville, GA 30046.