Minnesota Custody Evaluations Should be the Last Resort for Minnesota Divorcing Parents

Boy with KiteWhen Minnesota parents who have joint children cannot agree upon custody, parenting time, or a parenting plan, then usually a custody evaluation is necessary. A custody evaluator is appointed by the Court or by agreement of the parties.   Custody evaluations  are the Court’s way of having a third-party do the necessary investigation and make a recommendation in the best interests of the children.

Custody evaluators need not necessarily be people with advanced degrees.  Most, however, have had some measure of training in the evaluation process.   The evaluator is charged with reviewing all information that may be relevant to either parent’s ability to parent the children.  The evaluator will run criminal background checks; review healthcare records including counseling records; interview family and friends; observe parents with the children; and, recommend testing for either parent such as psychological evaluations, chemical dependency assessments, or any other testing that may seem appropriate.

The evaluator then writes up a report using all the information relative to the best interests of the children factors set out in Minnesota Statute Section 518.17.   The evaluator’s recommendations are provided to both parties and their attorneys and filed with the Court.

If the case continues to trial, then the custody evaluator may be called as a witness and examined on his or her report.  The Court has the discretion to accept the recommendations, change the recommendations or reject the recommendations.   Courts, however, accept the custody evaluator’s recommendations in about 80% of cases.

Ordering up a custody evaluation should really be the very last resort for parents.  By having an evaluator the parents abdicate decisions to a third-party– the evaluator and, ultimately, the Court.

A mediator I know always tells folks that going trial  is like driving a car. You are in the driver’s seat with the steering wheel in hand, but somebody else is steering the car.   I think the same can be said of the custody evaluation process.

Parents should use every avenue to come to some agreement on custody and co-parenting even if it takes several mediation sessions.   By staying active in the process of decision-making, then both parents have input into every aspect of co-parenting that affects them and their children. Agreements to parent can be reviewed annually. Families grow and children mature.  What is a good parenting arrangement now may not work down the road.  When both parents are involved in decision-making, then the option to review the plan on a regular basis can be built into the agreement.  Anything that parents agreed to can be set out in a parenting plan.

It may be difficult to work cooperatively at first, but with good intentions and a commitment to try and resolve disputes and brain storm ways to co-parent the children, then good things can happen.  If parents are involved in coming to a mutual agreement on custody and parenting, then the parents own the decision. Parents usually know what is best for their family and decisions involving their kids.  It seems a better option for the kids to have parents do the hard work of coming to a mutual parenting plan instead of letting third parties decide what is best for the family,

Kate Willmore, St. Cloud, MN Divorce, Family Court Lawyer, Fathers Right’s Lawyer & Mediator

Call Kate at Google Voice at (320) 200-9502 for quick access.

(320) 217-6030 or kaw@katewillmorelaw.com


Copyright 2014


About Kate Willmore, Esq.

Kate Willmore, Saint Cloud, Minnesota, divorce, custody and family attorney brings over 25 years experience to every client's legal matter. *** Licensed in Minnesota and in California

2 Responses to “Minnesota Custody Evaluations Should be the Last Resort for Minnesota Divorcing Parents”

  1. judy.leege@fuse.net Reply November 20, 2014 at 8:23 am

    Kate, I read your blogs with interest. I hope the people in St Cloud read them and get the answers they need. Then contact you for their attorney of course.:)

    Sent from my HTC


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