Over time, family courts have become more educated on the importance of both parents the life of a child. This is particularly important when a separation or divorce happens to a younger child, but it also impacts how older children see themselves and the world around them.
In Illinois, child custody is now referred to as allocation of parental responsibilities. In most cases, there is no need for a custody evaluation, and parents are encouraged to work together to create a plan for parenting time that is in the best interests of their children, with kids having regular time to spend with both parents.
When is a Custody Evaluation Required?
In cases where there is a concern with the ability of one or both parents to parent a child or children, a custody evaluation can occur. In some situations, differences in parenting practices can result in the request for a custody evaluation through the divorce process.
Differences in parenting styles are sometimes dramatic. A good example of this is a couple where one parent is a “snowplow parent,” and the other parent allows the child to try things and experience typically failure or success.
Snowplow parents are those parents who remove or eliminate any barriers in the child’s life experiences, just like a snowplow clears the road for a smooth, trouble-free driving experience. These snowplow parents want to protect their children from any challenges or obstacles, and they do not want to see their children experience frustration, failure, or any type of negativity in their life.
These parents often see the other parent as uncaring, unloving, or unkind to the child, even though research demonstrates that kids learn as much from failure as they do from success. Snowplow parents may make claims that the other parent is negligent or unsafe, which can trigger a custody evaluation in the divorce.
What to Know about Evaluations
Qualified mental health professionals are used to complete custody evaluations in the state. These types of evaluations include personal interviews with both parents, interviewing of close family and friends, a home study, and a review of existing documents and records on the family and the children. Depending on the age of the kids, they may also be interviewed, and specific types of psychological tests may be required.
Talking to your attorney is important before the custody evaluation process. The attorney can provide you with information specific to your case, but also to provide insight into the process. It is critical to be open and honest and to avoid trying to paint a negative picture of the other parent by exaggerating or embellishing their behaviors with and towards the children.
The report the custody evaluator provides to the court is considered by the judge in determining allocation of parental responsibilities. The evaluator makes recommendations in the report, but the final decision in child custody, parenting time, and child support is always a matter that is determined by the family court judge.