Raleigh Child Custody and Wake County Child Custody Evaluations

A child custody evaluation is a valuable tool in contested Raleigh child custody cases in North Carolina.  In this article I will explore some of the frequent questions I get about the custody evaluation over my years of practice in the Wake County family court in Raleigh, NC and other counties around North Carolina. In this post, will learn the complexities of child custody evaluation and give you helpful insights on how it impacts custody decision

What is a child custody evaluation?  

Generally speaking, a child custody evaluation is a forensic examination of the children and parents by a qualified person.  The evaluation report will present the information gathered, an interpretation of the information, and make recommendations for the family.  The recommendations may include, for example, custodial schedule, suggestions about communication, and the need, if any, for individual and family counseling.

What is the purpose of the child custody evaluation in North Carolina courts?

As with any expert witness, the purpose of an expert is to assist the district court judge hearing the child custody case in making a fair and fully informed custody decision.  A child custody evaluation, no matter what the recommendations are, is not a replacement for the final judgment of the court.  The trial court may elect to use the recommendations; however, there is no requirement for the judge to do so.  The district court judge also has the choice to place little credibility in the evaluator’s opinion.

When can a child custody evaluation help?

I believe they can help in any Raleigh child custody or NC custody case that is being litigated because when the parents can’t agree and a judge must decide, the kind of information provided by the report almost always helps the court make a decision.

When can a child custody evaluation hurt?

On an individual basis, it would not be wise for a party who has psychological problems and parenting issues to request a child custody evaluation because these problems are likely to be highlighted in the experts’ report.  Of course, this sets up the tension between a parent’s individual desires for a particular custodial arrangement and what is truly in the best interest of the child.

A forensic child custody evaluation should be considered in any high-conflict case and in cases where there are suspicions of substance abuse, sexual abuse, or other similar factual situations.  The American Psychological Association has published guidelines that are useful.

Tips for parents going through an evaluation

  • To learn more about the procedure, speak with a lawyer or use other custody options.
  • Take the evaluator’s presence seriously at all times. Be on time, dress nicely, bring your paperwork, etc.
  • Make it clear to your child that they are important to you. Do not prioritise your personal interests over those of others.
  • Keep in mind that the report will include your words and deeds. Don’t dispute with the evaluator and show respect for them.
  • Be truthful. Recognise both your parenting accomplishments and areas for improvement.
  • Make an effort to avoid criticizing the other parent.
  • Never instruct your children.
  • Answer all of my inquiries honestly.

What are the other downsides to a custody evaluation? 

They are expensive and they add several months to the custody litigation process.  In Raleigh child custody cases an expert may cost between $4,000 and $12,000.  The cost can vary by location because different experts frequently serve different areas of the state.   There is a range that experts in the field charge and the number of children and complexity of the case all go into the wide range of possible costs.   The other obvious issue is how long the process takes.  The expert not only has to do interviews of the parents and children, but also performs psychological testing, reviews of relevant documents, and interviews with collateral witnesses.


What is the primary focus of a child custody evaluation?

The evaluation’s main goal is to determine what is in the child’s best psychological interests. Assessing the individual and familial characteristics that influence the kid’s best psychological interests is the main goal of a child custody evaluation. The court might ask more detailed queries.