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Category: Family Law

Custody Evaluations in Illinois Divorce Cases

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Written by Jessica Mansbacher Kibbe on 5.3.24

Some parents cannot see eye-to-eye on matters involving their shared children. Whether these parents are involved in a divorce or a parentage case, they will struggle to come up with a mutually agreeable parenting plan that the Court can sign off on. When parents cannot agree on how to share parenting time and parental decision-making responsibilities, the Court has to step in to come up with a plan that will honor the best interests of the children involved.

The Court has multiple avenues toward making this happen. One of those is through the investigation of a Guardian ad Litem (GAL), who will provide recommendations to the Court as to what parenting arrangement would be best. But sometimes, the GAL requires more information. Sometimes, even after the GAL has made a recommendation, one or both parents will insist on a third-party opinion. Sometimes the Court wants another seasoned professional to weigh in. This is when a child custody evaluation will be ordered.

The Law in Illinois

Typically, the Court will order a custody evaluation to be conducted pursuant to Section 604.10(b) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA). Under this section, the Court may appoint a professional to assist in determining the child’s best interests. This professional is commonly a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health professional, but does not have to be. Generally speaking, a qualified psychologist will conduct interviews, administer tests, and review relevant documentation to provide insights into each party’s psychological state and their ability to provide a stable and nurturing environment for the child.

The evaluator will then provide the Court with a written report, which will be entered into evidence in the case.

Per the statute, the report must contain the following:

  • Description of the procedures used during the evaluation
  • The data collected during the evaluation
  • The test results procured during the evaluation
  • Any conclusions of the professional arrived at during the evaluation
  • Recommendations of the professional regarding allocation of parenting time and parental decision-making responsibilities
  • Any limitations of the evaluation or concerns about the resulting recommendations

Practical Matters

Custody evaluations of the type provided for in Section 604.10(b) take a long time to complete, and they typically cost $10,000 – $20,000. The parties to the case will be responsible for paying the Court’s professional to conduct the custody evaluation.

Child custody evaluations can also be intrusive and emotionally taxing. The evaluator will be poring through every detail of a family’s private life and conducting psychological testing. The process can drudge up painful and raw emotions and exacerbate unhealthy family dynamics. It can be a trying process for everyone involved.

Do You Need a Custody Evaluation in Your Divorce?

Ultimately, the goal of custody evaluations under Section 604.10(b) of the IMDMA is to promote the child’s well-being and ensure that parents are fit and that parenting plans are appropriate. However, a child custody evaluation is not always the best course of action in a case. If you are unsure of whether a child custody evaluation is appropriate in your Illinois divorce case, reach out to an experienced family law attorney for help.

The seasoned family law attorneys at O. Long Law, LLC, are available to help you and your family through this difficult time. We know you want what is best for your children, and we are committed to achieving that goal for you. Reach out to our Firm today to schedule your consultation and learn more.

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