If the parents cannot decide how to share parental duties, the Court may appoint a third party, to conduct a custody evaluation. That person, may be a lawyer, social worker, psychologist or guardian ad litem (acting as an evaluator) or other such “expert”. The evaluator will meet with you, your children and your spouse. The evaluator should see the children in each parent’s home. The evaluator will speak with friends and family members of the parents, the children’s daycare provider and, schoolteachers. If the evaluator believes something is wrong with a parent, the evaluator will request chemical dependency or psychological evaluations of a parent or parents.
Once all of the interviews are completed, the evaluator writes a report that considers the thirteen “best interest” factors in Minnesota Statute 518.17. The report is given to the Court and the parents. How much weight does the Judge give the evaluation? That depends upon the Judge. Some Judges rely heavily on the report and evaluation; others do not believe evaluations are necessary.
If you do not agree with the recommendations, you may take the matter to trial. Beware; once the opinions are in writing, they are very hard to overcome. That is why it is much better for the parents to decide how to parent their children, rather than a third party. Custody evaluations are a minefield for the uninformed and unwary parent.