Unlike child custody mediation, a custody evaluation is not required in all cases. However, the court may still appoint a child custody evaluator in any contested custody or visitation proceeding. The child custody evaluator is tasked with conducting a child custody evaluation and preparing a confidential written report for the court’s consideration.
The child custody evaluator can be a probation officer, domestic relations investigator, or court-appointed evaluator. When the parties stipulate and agree on an evaluator, the court will typically appoint the agreed-upon evaluator.
The Family Court Services child custody recommending counseling sessions provides an opportunity for parents to meet with a trained professional to develop a parenting plan that is in the best interest of their children.Sonoma County Child Custody Recommending Counseling
Disclosure & Sanctions
The report prepared by the evaluator is confidential and cannot be disclosed without justification. Unwarranted disclosure of a written confidential report can result in monetary sanctions imposed by the court to deter repetition of the conduct. As such, the monetary sanction or penalty should not impose an unreasonable financial burden on the party.
However, the sanction must also be in an amount sufficient that will discourage the party from repeating the offense. The court may even include an award for reasonable attorney’s fees and costs in computing the penalty.
The penalty, however, will not be imposed if the court finds that the conduct of the party in disclosing the report was justified or if there are circumstances that make the sanction unjust.
Investigation of Sexual Abuse
If there is a serious allegation of child sexual abuse, the court must order an evaluation, assessment, or investigation. A “serious allegation of child sexual abuse,” means an allegation based in whole or in part of the statement made by the child to law enforcement, a child welfare services agency investigator, any person deemed a mandated reporter or any other court-appointed personnel. It is also considered as a serious allegation of child sexual abuse when it is supported by substantial independent corroboration.