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Child Custody Evaluations in Oregon: What to Expect

If you’re involved in a child custody dispute in Oregon, you probably need outside help to resolve the situation. In most cases, that means you’ll need to undergo a child custody evaluation.

Navigating evaluations can be daunting for parents, especially if you’re also going through a divorce. Knowing what to expect during these evaluations can help you prepare effectively and make sure that your children’s best interests are put first. 

What Is a Child Custody Evaluation?

A child custody evaluation in Oregon is a process used by the court to make informed decisions about parenting time arrangements in cases of divorce or separation. This evaluation is typically conducted by a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or a licensed clinical social worker, who is experienced in childhood and family issues. 

The primary goals of these evaluations are to assess the needs of the kids and the parenting capabilities of each parent and then to make recommendations to the court regarding the most suitable parenting arrangement that serves the best interests of the child.

What Custody Evaluators Consider

Evaluators look at various factors to determine the most suitable living arrangements for the child. These include:

  • Parenting Abilities: How each parent takes care of the children, including providing for physical needs, emotional support, and education.
  • Minor’s Needs: The specific physical, emotional, educational, and social needs of the child.
  • Parent-Child Relationship: The strength and quality of the minor’s relationship with each parent.
  • Family Dynamics: Interaction patterns within the family, including any history of domestic violence or substance abuse.
  • Parental Willingness to Cooperate: Each parent’s willingness to support the child’s relationship with the other parent.

The evaluator considers these factors in combination to determine what type of parenting arrangement would be best for the children. 

The Custody Evaluation Process, Step-by-Step

The child custody evaluation process in Oregon is a systematic approach used by courts to determine the most appropriate parenting arrangement. Let’s break the process down step by step.

  • Court Order for Evaluation: The process usually begins when a judge orders a custody evaluation, often in cases where parents cannot agree on custody arrangements or when there are concerns about the minor’s welfare.
  • Selection of Evaluator: An evaluator is chosen, either agreed upon by both parties or appointed by the court. This professional is usually experienced in child development, family dynamics, and the legal aspects of child custody.
  • Initial Meetings: The evaluator meets with each parent, both individually and possibly together. This initial phase helps the evaluator understand the case background and the positions of each parent.
  • Interviews with Parents and Children: The evaluator conducts in-depth interviews with each parent. Depending on the child’s age and maturity, the evaluator might also interview them to understand their needs, preferences, and feelings about their family situation.
  • Home Visits: The evaluator may visit the homes of each parent to observe the living conditions and the interactions between the parent and children in their home environment.
  • Observation and Collateral Contacts: The evaluator gathers information from other sources, such as teachers, healthcare providers, or family members. Observations in different settings (such as school or extracurricular activities) can also be part of the evaluation.
  • Review of Documents: The evaluator reviews relevant documents like school records, medical records, and any legal documents related to the case.
  • Psychological Testing: If necessary, psychological assessments of the parents and sometimes the kids may be conducted to provide more insight into their mental health, parenting capacities, and the minor’s needs.

After completing the evaluation, the evaluator prepares a detailed report with observations, assessment results, and a recommended custody arrangement. Both parents will have access to this report. It will be submitted to the court and can significantly influence the judge’s decision regarding custody arrangements.

Preparing for the Evaluation

Preparing for a custody evaluation is crucial as it can significantly influence the court’s decision regarding custody arrangements. Before and during the process, you should:

  • Gather Important Documents: Organize relevant documents such as your children’s medical records, school reports, a list of their extracurricular activities, and any communication with the other parent that pertains to your kids’ wellbeing.
  • Reflect on Your Parenting: Be prepared to discuss your parenting style, how you discipline children, your daily routine, and how you attend to your child’s educational, emotional, and physical needs.
  • Be Honest and Consistent: Provide truthful information. Inconsistencies in your story can raise concerns about your credibility.
  • Stay Positive and Focused on Your Child: During the evaluation, focus on your child’s best interests rather than criticizing the other parent. The evaluator is interested in seeing how you support your child’s relationship with the other parent.
  • Prepare for Home Visits: If the evaluator plans to visit your home, ensure it is a safe and nurturing environment for your children. This doesn’t mean a perfect house; rather, it should be a home where their needs are met. 
  • Manage Stress and Emotions: This process can be stressful. It’s important to manage your emotions and stress effectively, as your ability to cope with stress is part of what the evaluator will assess.

Parents need to understand that the primary focus of the custody evaluation process in Oregon is the best interests of the child. Cooperation with the evaluator and a willingness to demonstrate a commitment to your children’s wellbeing is crucial. 

Having a skilled family law attorney can be invaluable during a custody evaluation. Your attorney can provide guidance, help you understand the implications of the evaluator’s recommendations, and advocate for your rights and the best interests of your kids.

Talk to Regele Law, LLC, About Child Custody Evaluations

Child custody evaluations are a critical part of the custody decision-making process in Oregon. By understanding what to expect and preparing appropriately, you can navigate this challenging time more effectively, focusing on what matters most: your kids.

At Regele Law, LLC, we can help you prepare and handle the custody evaluation process from start to finish. Schedule your consultation with our skilled child custody lawyers in Salem, Oregon, today to learn how we can support you during this difficult time.