If you and your parenting partner are unable to reach agreement about custody and parenting time, the Court may require you to engage the services of a Custody Evaluator (CE) to help the Court decide custody and parenting time. A CE will take time to learn about you, your children and your unique circumstances and needs. Once the evaluator’s investigation work is complete, they will make verbal and/or written recommendations about custody and parenting time based on the best interests of your children. Custody Evaluator’s recommendations are not legal binding; however, the Court often relies heavily on a CE’s recommendations which is why cases often settle after a CE’s recommendations are received. Custody Evaluators are selected by the parties (and their attorneys) and appointed by Court Order. A full custody evaluation takes 3 to 6 months to complete.
It is important to understand that a child’s best interests are defined by Minnesota law. A parent’s opinion about what arrangements best serve a child’s best interests may or may not be consistent with the law. It is also important to know that there are often multiple ways to serve a child’s best interests and provide for a child’s needs. This means that parents can hold two very different opinions about what is in their child’s best interest and both opinions may fall on the spectrum of what is in child’s best interest. Click here for Minnesota’s Best Interests Factors
Ms. Serwat’s CE services are broken into three billable phases.
- Investigation: This phase includes interviews with both parents and children of sufficient age; home visits, collateral contact with teachers, doctors and daycare providers; review of personal references, review of court documents, school and/or medical records for the children; and review and/or testing of each parent’s medical and/or mental health including chemical dependency. The investigation phase ends with verbal recommendations presented to the attorneys (or to the parties is self-represented).
- Written Report: If the parties are unable to reach agreement after verbal CE recommendations are presented, either party may request a written report for submission to the court.
- Testimony: If the case goes to trial and Ms. Serwat’s expert testimony is needed, either party may subpoena Ms. Serwat to appear in court to testify about the recommendations in her report.