Child custody evaluations are an important part of family law cases. They help judges make informed decisions about which parent should have custody of a child. Becoming a child custody evaluator requires a significant amount of education, training, and experience.
To become a child custody evaluator, one must first have a background in mental health or forensic psychology. According to the National Board of Forensic Evaluators, evaluators interested in the Child Custody Evaluators Certification (CCCE) credential must already be a Certified Forensic Mental Health Evaluator (CFMHE). In addition, they must complete a 30-hour Child Custody Evaluators Certification Training Homestudy and pass the post-homestudy test.
There are also other training programs available for those interested in becoming a child custody evaluator. The Steve Frankel Group offers a Child Custody Evaluator Training Series that covers topics such as transitional objects and high conflict divorce. These courses are approved for continuing education credits for psychologists, MFTs, LCSWs, and licensed professional counselors.
Understanding Child Custody Evaluation
What is a Child Custody Evaluator?
A child custody evaluator is a mental health professional who evaluates parents and children involved in a custody dispute. The evaluator’s role is to provide the court with an objective assessment of the child’s best interests and to help the court make a decision regarding custody and visitation arrangements. The evaluator typically conducts interviews with the parents, children, and other relevant parties, reviews records, and observes interactions between the child and parents.
Child Custody State Statutes
Each state has its own child custody laws that specify how custody decisions should be made. These laws outline the factors that the court must consider when making a custody determination, such as the child’s age, health, and emotional needs, the parents’ ability to provide for the child’s needs, and the child’s relationship with each parent. It is important for child custody evaluators to be familiar with the relevant state statutes and to incorporate them into their evaluations.
AFCC Model Standards
The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) has developed model standards for child custody evaluations. These standards provide guidance for evaluators on how to conduct a thorough and impartial evaluation, including issues related to confidentiality, informed consent, and cultural sensitivity. Child custody evaluators who adhere to the AFCC model standards are more likely to produce evaluations that are reliable and valid.
Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychologists
The Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychologists provide guidance for psychologists who engage in forensic practice, including child custody evaluations. These guidelines emphasize the importance of maintaining objectivity, avoiding conflicts of interest, and ensuring that evaluations are based on sound scientific principles. Child custody evaluators who follow the Specialty Guidelines are more likely to produce evaluations that are ethical and defensible in court.
In summary, child custody evaluations are complex and require specialized knowledge and skills. Child custody evaluators must be familiar with the relevant state statutes, adhere to professional standards, and maintain objectivity throughout the evaluation process. By doing so, child custody evaluators can provide the court with valuable information that helps ensure the child’s best interests are served.
Education and Skills Required
Child custody evaluators are professionals who are responsible for assessing the needs of children and their families during a custody dispute. Becoming a child custody evaluator requires a combination of education and skills that enable the evaluator to make informed decisions that are in the best interest of the child.
Most child custody evaluators hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a field related to psychology or social work. Some common degrees include a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, Bachelor of Social Work, Master of Social Work, or Master of Science in Psychology. Additionally, some evaluators may have a law degree or be licensed as an attorney.
According to the Zippia, 48% of child custody evaluators hold a bachelor’s degree and 42% hold a master’s degree. However, it is important to note that the specific education requirements may vary depending on the state or jurisdiction in which the evaluator practices.
Child custody evaluators must have a variety of skills that enable them to effectively assess the needs of children and their families. Some of the key skills include:
- Communication Skills: Evaluators must be able to communicate effectively with children, parents, and other professionals involved in the custody dispute.
- Critical Thinking Skills: Evaluators must be able to analyze complex information and make informed decisions that are in the best interest of the child.
- Research Skills: Evaluators must be able to conduct research and gather information relevant to the custody dispute.
- Empathy: Evaluators must be able to understand and empathize with the needs of the child and their family.
- Objectivity: Evaluators must remain objective and impartial throughout the evaluation process.
According to the National Board of Forensic Evaluators, evaluators must also be familiar with the legal and ethical standards related to child custody evaluations. Additionally, evaluators must be able to write clear and concise reports that accurately reflect their findings and recommendations.
The Evaluation Process
Parents and Children
Child custody evaluations involve assessing the needs and best interests of the child. The evaluator will meet with both parents and the child to gather information about the family’s dynamics, history, and concerns. The evaluator will observe the interactions between the parents and the child, as well as the child’s behavior and emotional state.
Evaluating Public Health Programs at Scale
Evaluators must have a strong understanding of public health programs and policies that affect families and children. They must be able to evaluate the effectiveness of these programs and policies at scale and understand how they impact the families they are working with.
Everyday Parenting: The ABCs of Child Rearing
Evaluators must have a deep understanding of child development and the basic principles of parenting. They must be able to assess the parenting skills of each parent and make recommendations for improving their parenting techniques.
Evaluators must be skilled in conducting forensic interviews with children and adults. They must be able to ask appropriate questions and gather information without leading the interviewee or influencing their responses.
Evaluators must be able to write clear and concise reports that accurately reflect their findings and recommendations. Reports must be written in a manner that is understandable to both the parents and the court.
Evaluators must be able to present their findings and recommendations in court. They must be able to communicate effectively with the judge, attorneys, and other court personnel.
Risk Management Procedures
Evaluators must be able to assess the risk of harm to the child and make recommendations to minimize that risk. They must be knowledgeable about the signs of abuse and neglect and know how to report suspected abuse or neglect to the appropriate authorities.
Evaluators must adhere to ethical standards and principles in their work. They must be aware of potential conflicts of interest and ensure that their evaluations are impartial and unbiased.
Standards of Practice
Evaluators must follow the standards of practice set forth by their professional organizations. They must stay up-to-date on the latest research and trends in child custody evaluations and incorporate that knowledge into their practice.
Continuing Education and Salary
To become a child custody evaluator, one must have completed a graduate degree in psychology, social work, or a related field. Additionally, most states require evaluators to have specialized training in child custody evaluation. Continuing education is also necessary to maintain certification and stay up-to-date with the latest research and best practices.
Many organizations offer continuing education courses and workshops for child custody evaluators. For example, the National Board of Forensic Evaluators offers a Child Custody Evaluation Certification Workshop, which has been approved for 8 hours of continuing education (6 general hours, 1 domestic violence hour, and 1 hour of ethics). The Steve Frankel Group also offers courses for both full and part-time private practitioners and agency employees.
The salary for child custody evaluators can vary depending on several factors, such as experience, location, and type of employer. According to Zippia, the annual salary for child custody evaluators ranges from $43,000 to $58,000 per year. However, those with more experience and advanced degrees can earn significantly more.
It’s important to note that child custody evaluation is a specialized field within forensic mental health evaluation. While it can be challenging, rewarding, and impactful, it may not be as lucrative as other areas of forensic psychology. Nevertheless, child custody evaluators play a vital role in helping families navigate complex legal and emotional issues related to child custody.
Overall, continuing education is necessary to maintain certification and stay current with best practices in the field. While the salary for child custody evaluators may not be as high as other areas of forensic psychology, it can still be a fulfilling and rewarding career path for those with a passion for helping families.
Becoming a child custody evaluator requires a significant amount of education, training, and experience. A degree in psychology, social work, or a related field is typically required, and further education and training in forensic psychology and child custody evaluations is highly recommended. It is also important for aspiring evaluators to have a strong understanding of child psychology and development, as well as the legal system and relevant laws and regulations.
While relocation and allegations of intimate partner violence or child abuse can complicate custody evaluations, it is important for evaluators to remain neutral and objective in their assessments. Evaluators should also be aware of the potential for parental alienation and take steps to identify and address it when necessary.
Contacts with attorneys should be professional and ethical, and evaluators should avoid any conflicts of interest or biases. Gender should not play a role in the evaluation process, and all parties involved should be treated fairly and respectfully.
When applying for evaluator positions, a strong resume that highlights relevant education, training, and experience is essential. Evaluators may also benefit from networking with other professionals in the field and staying up-to-date on the latest research and developments in child custody evaluations.
Overall, becoming a child custody evaluator is a challenging but rewarding career path for those with a passion for psychology, child development, and the legal system.