If the spouses are unable to reach an agreement on custody and parent time, the judge will probably order them to have a custody evaluation performed. This involves hiring a psychologist or social worker to evaluate both parents and the children and make a recommendation to the judge on custody and parent time.
The evaluator makes his or her recommendation based on a number of factors, including: 1) the level of bonding between each parent and the children, 2) which parent provided the most care for the children during the marriage, 3) the preferences of older children, 4) each parent’s character and fitness, and 5) the willingness of each parent to facilitate and encourage a relationship between the children and the other parent.
The evaluator almost always makes at least one visit to each home as part of the evaluation. The evaluator may also have the parents complete some psychological testing and character inventories.
At a minimum, each parent should have a chance to have parent time with the children every other weekend, one weeknight each week, four weeks during the summer and half of the holidays during the year. However, the current consensus among custody evaluators is that the children need a strong bond with both parents, and this minimum parent-time schedule is not enough time with both parents to form that strong bond. Most custody evaluators will recommend that both parents get more than the standard parent-time with the children.