Child Custody Assessments & Evaluations

Types of Services Offered by the Court Evaluators

As part of Montgomery County Circuit Court’s Family Division Services, the Court Evaluators provide independent custody/visitation evaluations and/or assessments in family law cases before the Court. Court Evaluators’ services are provided only by direct order of the Court.

Custody/visitation evaluations are conducted by the Court’s Evaluators, who are all Licensed Clinical Social Workers. Once ordered into a case, their function is to assist the Court and parties in resolving custody and access issues in the case. The Evaluator is a neutral and objective fact finder and not an advocate for either party or the children. Their only focus is the best interest of the children. When provided by the court’s evaluators, this service is cost-free to litigants.

Court Evaluators also conduct adoption home study investigations and review home studies provided by other agencies.

Visit the Understanding Child Custody & Visitation Cases page for more information about child custody, including forms, fees, and information about how children are represented.

Basic Steps in Custody/Visitation Evaluations

At a court hearing called the Scheduling Hearing, a Family Magistrate will order an evaluation or assessment if he/she ascertains that the court and the parties would benefit from the input of the evaluative process. If the case is a Post-Judgment case, a motion must be made for an evaluation/assessment to be ordered, which includes the reason(s) for the order. A judge or magistrate may also order a custody evaluation in a Post-Judgement case if they believe it is necessary.

Once an evaluation is ordered (at a scheduling hearing or later on motion of a party), the parties are directed to Family Division Services (South Tower, 1st Floor, Rm 1500) to meet with an evaluator for separate intake interviews, which are conducted Monday through Friday from 9:00-11:00 am.

A custody/visitation evaluation is an in-depth process that concludes with oral testimony by the Evaluator at the Settlement/Status Hearing. Prior to the Settlement/Status Hearing, the Court Evaluator will observe the children with each respective parent in their respective home or at the court depending on geographical distance from the court (observations typically last one hour). The children may be interviewed at the court if age appropriate. At the Settlement/Status Hearing, the Evaluator’s oral testimony will include a psychosocial history and generally extensive collateral contacts with school personnel, therapists, governmental agencies, and litigant references. A transcript of that proceeding serves as the official record of the Evaluator’s testimony.

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