In a divorce involving children or a suit affecting parent child relationship (SAPCR), when the child’s best interest is an issue, the court may appoint an amicus attorney, an attorney ad litem, or guardian ad litem. A “guardian ad litem” means a person appointed to represent the best interest of a child. The person may be an attorney, but may also be a volunteer advocate. The guardian ad litem may conduct an investigation to the extent necessary to determine the child’s best interests and obtain and review copies of child’s relevant medical, psychological, and school records. A guardian ad litem, in a nonjury trial, may be called as a witness to provide a report as to the best interest of the child. An “attorney ad litem” means an attorney who provides legal services to a person, including a child, and who owes to the person duties of undivided loyalty, confidentiality, and competent representation.
An “amicus attorney” means an attorney appointed by the court in a suit other than a suit filed by a governmental entity, whose role is to provide legal services necessary to assist the court in protecting a child’s best interest rather than to provide legal services to the child.
A child custody evaluator may only be appointed after the court makes a specific finding that there is good cause for the appointment. Good cause may only be made after notice and hearing or on an agreement of the parties. An order for child custody evaluation must include the name of the person who will conduct the evaluation, the purpose of the evaluation, and the specific issues and questions to be addressed in the evaluation.
What Is A Child Custody Evaluation?
A child custody evaluation is a process ordered by the court in a contested suit affecting the parent-child relationship. The evaluation contains information, opinions, recommendations, and answers to specific questions asked by the court.
What Does The Child Custody Evaluation Process Look Like?
The order for a child custody evaluation includes the name of the person who will conduct the evaluation, purpose of the evaluation, and specific issues and questions to be addressed in the evaluation. The evaluator has basic elements of a custody evaluation as follows:
A personal interview of each party to the suit; interviews of each child who is the subject of the suit during a possession of each party to this suit but outside the presence of the party; observation of each child regardless of the child’s age in the presence of each party to the suit including during supervised visitation; observation, and if the child is at least 4 years old, an interview of any child who is not the subject of the suit who lives on a full-time basis in a residence that is the subject of the evaluation including other children or parties who are subjects of the evaluation; obtain information from relevant collateral sources including school records, physical and mental health records, DFPS records, criminal history information, and any other collateral source; evaluation of the home environment of each party seeking conservatorship, possession, or access to the child, unless the condition of the home environment is identified as not being in dispute; for each individual residing in the residence and the subject of the child custody evaluation, consideration of any criminal history information and contact with DFPS or law enforcement or regarding abuse or neglect; assessment of the relationship between each child and each party seeking possession of or access to the child; basic interviews and observations of each child who is the subject of the suit; and interview of each individual including a child who is at least 4 years of age residing on a full-time basis in a residence.
Once the evaluator conducts the evaluation, he or she must prepare a report containing findings, opinions, recommendations, and answers to specific questions asked by the court. The report is then filed with the court. Unless there is a specific order to not provide a report to the parties, a copy will be provided to the party’s attorneys.
How Can One Prepare A Child For The Interview With A Custody Evaluator And A Guardian Ad Litem?
A party should not discuss the evaluation and interview process with the child.
Who Conducts The Child Custody Evaluation?
A child custody evaluator appointed by the court performs the child custody evaluation.
Who Pays For The Child Custody Evaluation?
The court will order that the fee of the evaluator be paid by one or both of the parties. The fee must be imposed in the form of a money judgment and paid directly to the child evaluator.
Why Should A Parent Cooperate With The Custody Evaluation?
A party and a parent should cooperate with the child custody evaluation both because it is ordered by the court and because the best interest of the child is being evaluated.
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