How does a child custody evaluation work in New Jersey?

Figuring out what type of custody arrangement is best for your child can be difficult and hotly contested. After all, in many instances, each parent thinks they know what is best for their kid, and those points of view often conflict with each other.

This can make a judge’s job difficult, and it can put you and your child at risk of being subjected to a custody arrangement that isn’t right for your family. That’s one reason why you may want to consider seeking a child custody evaluation.


A child custody evaluation is an assessment conducted by a mental health professional for the purpose of making a recommendation to the court as to what sort of custody arrangement is best for the child. The evaluation may include each of the following aspects:

  • Interviews with each parent
  • An interview with the child
  • Analysis of school records
  • Psychological testing of the parents or the child
  • Observations of parenting time with each parent
  • Conversations with other individuals who know the family, including teachers, neighbors, doctors, and other family members

How to prepare for your custody evaluation

Remember that the report that comes out of a custody evaluation will be submitted to the court and will probably carry a lot of weight. That’s why you need to be as prepared as possible before participating in one of these assessments.

How do you do that? Be as open and honest with the evaluator as possible without damaging the impression that you’re giving. Voice your concerns, but don’t bash the other parent or his or her actions. Ensure that your home is clean, that you’ve planned activities for your observed visitation with your child, and that you have all of the documentation that you need to show that you’re a safe and effective parent. Hopefully then you can ensure that the evaluator has a realistic perspective of your parenting skills and style.

An attorney may be able to help

But even if the evaluation turns out to be harmful to your position, you shouldn’t give up. Instead, you can work closely with a family law attorney who may be able to help you point out issues with the report so that you can still give yourself a chance at protecting your child’s best interests.