In Idaho, a custody evaluation is a formalized process through the court rules to have a therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist evaluate what would be in the best interest of the children, according to their observations and training. If you feel that you need a custody evaluation or anticipate an extended argument regarding custody, please contact an attorney immediately.
The court has authority to order such evaluation under Physical and Mental Examination of Person I.R.C.P. 35(a) but the Rule is not designed specifically for custody evaluations and attorneys generally file a motion to request an order naming the evaluator, stating who is paying, requiring the parties to cooperate, and addressing the issue of the reports admissability.
Not every case needs an evaluation and the vast majority are resolved without a custody evaluation.
Only through a discussion between you and your lawyer can a decision be made whether the hire a custody evaluator or not. The cost of an evaluation can really vary greatly from $1000 to $6000 or more.
STARTING AN EVALUATION. Your attorney must file a motion to start the evaluation. The court can assign a joint evaluator and divide the cost, or the parties can agree upon an evaluator and a division of cost. In addition both parties can hire their own evaluator or one party can hire an evaluator while the other party does not.
PROCESS. Typically a custody evaluation involves a mental health professional interviewing both parents, the children with the parents, psychometric testing, interviewing collateral contacts such as grandparents, friends, spouses, siblings, teachers or anyone the parents ask the evaluator to speak to. The evaluator puts his findings into a report and generally makes a recommendation for custody and parenting time. The evaluator can make findings of parental alienation, abuse, neglect or merely craft a schedule that is in that evaluators opinion best for the children.
PICKING AN EVALUATOR. There is more to the decision of which evaluator to hire, than just deciding which evaluator has a better resume. Usually your lawyer has some experience with a particular evaluator or can easily speak to a lawyer that does have experience with that evaluator. Practical experience as to the evaluator's professionalism is usually the most important factor in making a choice.