Parenting Evaluators: A Tool for Courts

Going through a divorce is stressful for everyone.  When children are involved, divorce or separation can get even more challenging.  After all, it’s easy to “split” property or assets.  Things get complicated when young lives are involved.  In the end, we trust our judges to make sure that the “right” decision is made with regard to custody.  In Washington State, Courts look to resources to help them in the complicated process of determining what is in the best interest of children in a divorce.  They can use several tools to help them make this decision.  One of those tools is a parenting evaluator.  A Parenting Evaluator is a mental health professional, often a PhD, who has specific education, background and training related to family systems, child development, and child and adult psychopathology. Parenting Evaluators often do “flat fee” rates for their services.

In King County, a Parenting Evaluator investigates the parents and child. They may do psychological testing or have another certified professional do that testing. Like Guardians ad Litem, Parenting Evaluators provide recommendations to the court regarding the residential schedule of children. They identify each parent’s parenting strengths and weaknesses and consider those along with the developmental needs of the child or children. Parenting Evaluators will often also recommend therapeutic resources to either or both parents and/or the child to aid in developing healthier family systems.

Parenting Evaluators are not an “advocate” for a child. They do not need to be given notice of hearings by the court. Their role is done once they issue a final report to the court in King County. Parties to the proceeding get a copy of this report.  Oftentimes, talking with an experienced family law attorney may give you insight as to if a Parenting Evaluator or Guardian ad Litem could be helpful if you have a custody issue. At Miller Law Group, located in Seattle, we can give you guidance.

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