Compromise should be the top priority for every couple getting divorced, especially when they have mutual children. Rather than dragging out a case with arguments, it’s better to work hard toward a resolution so that you and your children can find peace and move on to a new stage of life.
However, this type of accord can’t always be reached between two people for whom history and old wounds run deep. Decisions about the allocation of parenting responsibilities (formerly known as custody) and parenting time can cause some of the most vicious disagreements during divorce, and one parent might question the other’s fitness.
In other instances, one parent may have urgent concerns about the other parent’s ability to care for their children because of mental health illness or substance abuse problems.
If a couple cannot agree on the allocation of parenting responsibilities and parenting time, or one parent’s issues present a severe contributing factor, the court must step in to decide what’s in the best interest of the children.
What is a parenting evaluation?
In the process of considering the best allocation of parenting time, family court judges will order a parenting evaluation. This is a formal review of one or both parents’ ability and fitness to care for their children by a professional.
It’s important to note that a parenting evaluation can be an invasive process that requires the parents to produce evidence, attend interviews and participate in psychological testing. Parenting evaluations happen in cases that require more in-depth professional consideration of the circumstances of the family.
Judges might order a parenting evaluation over concerns they have regarding one or both parents. These concerns may be about:
● Domestic violence
● Sexual violence
● Substance abuse or addiction
● Unmanaged mental health issues
● Questionable parenting skills or habits
● Children with special needs
● Parents who want to move a child to another state
And any other reason the Court deems appropriate.
To conduct the parenting evaluation, a judge appoints a qualified professional, often a psychologist or psychiatrist. This person is charged with collecting information relevant to the evaluation and providing a report to the court. The report usually includes a recommendation about the fitness of one or both parties to act as parents to their child.
During a parenting evaluation, you’ll be asked to submit to a psychological test. You’ll also provide details of your upbringing, education, relationships, financials, habits, home life, work life, substance use, mental health, criminal background, and more.
The investigator collects these details about your life, along with records and other physical evidence. They will also conduct interviews with your family members, friends, and, most importantly, your children.
When the parenting evaluation is complete – a process that may take several months – the investigator delivers his or her report to the court. The judge overseeing the case will review the report and either agree with the investigator’s recommendation or come to their own conclusion about the material provided.
Laws about parenting evaluations in Illinois
Parenting evaluations may be ordered by the court. The court will either select its own expert evaluator and/or allow a party to obtain their own.
The differences in laws 604.10(b) and 604.10(c) lie in the selection of professional personnel to conduct the investigation and provide testimony, and which party is responsible for costs associated with fees charged by those personnel.
In evaluations conducted under law 604.10(b), the court appoints professional personnel to conduct an investigation as the Court’s expert. The Court usually orders both parties to share the cost as the Court deems appropriate under the circumstances. . The judge decides how much each person should pay, based on their financial ability and any other criteria the court finds relevant.
If one or both parties wants to select their own professional to investigate, they may do so under law 604.10(c). However, that person is responsible for covering the entire costs of professional fees incurred in the course of that parenting investigation and testimony.
The evaluator provides a written report to the court that includes the results of the investigation and a recommendation about what the evaluator believes to be appropriate. Remember, the judge has ultimate discretion over whether to rule in line with the recommendation.
We’re Here To Help
Parenting evaluations can be an arduous, emotional, and complicated process. If you need help with a parenting evaluation or other needs related to custody cases, contact the caring professionals at Sterk Family Law Group at (815) 600-8950 or by completing the form below to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.
This is a legal advertisement from Sterk Family Law Group. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be construed as such. This article is for informational and educational purposes only.