Home Studies and Psychological Evaluations in Child Custody Matters: Who, What, When and Why

psychological evaluations for child custody

Home Studies and Psychological Evaluations in Child Custody Matters: Who, What, When and Why

Psychological Evaluations in Child Custody Matters

Sometimes, unfortunately, a Florida custody battle is justified – one of the parents may have an addiction problem and/or may even be abusive to his/her child. As a result,  home studies and psychological evaluations (and sometimes both) are warranted.

A home study is ordered by a Florida family court or requested by a divorcing spouse in order to determine whether the living conditions of a parent’s home are appropriate to raise a child. The person conducting a home study also looks for dangerous or less-than-stellar living arrangements for the children. A home study could be performed by a case worker from Child Protective Services, a guardian ad litem or a court-appointed special advocate.

If a psychological evaluation is ordered by the Florida family court or requested by the divorcing spouse, a psychologist who is registered with the court meets with the children and parents — separately at first, but may meet with the entire family. The psychologist creates a report based on what he or she finds during the evaluation, including how the parents interact with the children, how the children interact with each parent, and whether the children are hesitant to go with one parent or the other among other issues.

These studies and evaluations can cost the parties more than a pretty penny; so if at all possible, it is advisable for the parties to look at their situations carefully and try to work out the differences on their own. If this doesn’t happen, the courts will often order the parties to undergo home studies and/or psychological evaluations.

Depending on the parties’ finances, the Florida family court may order one parent to pay for the entire panel or may order the parties to share the cost. Once the studies and evaluations have been completed, they are submitted to the court. If the parties do not settle their differences on their own or through mediation, the court will call the professionals who wrote the reports to testify about the contents of the reports. The court is then able to make a decision as to which parent has custody and visitation; and whether one of the parents should have supervised visitation.

In some cases, the court will recommend that the child be removed from both parents, though that is rare. While the home study concentrates on the living arrangements for the children, the psychological evaluation looks at how the parents and children interact. It also determines whether a parent may be a danger to the children because of an addition to alcohol, illegal and/or prescription drugs or abuse.

Recommendations that a court could make include:
* Rotating (50/50) custody — the children may spend one week at one parent’s home and the next week at the other parent’s home.
* A standard custody and visitation schedule wherein the children visit one parent every other weekend and rotating holidays.
* Supervised visitation for one parent — in this case, the supervised parent must arrange for a few hours on specific days (usually the weekend) to visit with the children with a third party. That person may be a mutual friend of the couple, a guardian ad litem or someone provided through a court-sanctioned program.
* Sole custody for one parent — in this case, one parent’s rights to visit the children have been removed. This is usually seen when one parent has been incarcerated and is not expected to be released from prison any time soon. The court may also order sole custody if a parent is abusive to the children and that abuse has been documented.

If the court does order home studies and/or psychological evaluations, it is always done in order to further the best interest of the children. Cooperating with the court shows you are willing to work on custody arrangements and that you have your children’s best interests at heart. If you have any questions regarding home studies and/or psych evaluations in Florida Divorces – or questions regarding the divorce process in general, give us a call.


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