The Responsibilities of a Child Custody Evaluator

A psychologist at families in transition, Irvine, California, Dr. Miriam Galindo oversees the group home for abused and neglected children. Attending to the home entails fundraising, individualized education advocacy, and daily oversight. Alongside these responsibilities, Dr. Miriam Galindo has been a member of the Orange County Superior Court Family Law Panel of Child Custody evaluators since 2005.

While some cases do not require the services of a child custody evaluator, situations arise where the co-parents disagree on custody. The judge summons the evaluator, typically a psychologist or social worker, to assess the co-parents’ ability to meet the child’s needs based on the child’s psychological, educational, and physical needs. The evaluator offers an informed recommendation on the most capable custodian from the interviews, medical conditions, test results, and available information.

The extent of the evaluation varies on a case-by-case basis. Typically, however, the initial interviews cover the role of each parent up to the dispute stage to determine the primary caretaker. The evaluator also explores the disputed issues, including the originator or guilty party and prevailing situation. A more intense evaluation covers psychological and substance abuse tests to determine chemical dependency, anger issues, and a home visit to measure suitability, engagement levels, parenting style, and assertions. The report enables the evaluator to furnish the judge with information to help determine the custody case.


For Parents – What Not to Do during Child Custody Evaluations


Dr. Miriam Galindo pic

Dr. Miriam Galindo

The holder of a doctorate in psychology, Dr. Miriam Galindo is a licensed clinical psychologist and social worker. Since 2005, Dr. Miriam Galindo has been an approved child custody evaluator for the Orange County Superior Court.

Child custody evaluations are performed by qualified mental health professionals to help the court determine the best interests of the child in custody cases. During the evaluation, the mental health professional conducts several meetings, including with parents. Here are a couple of actions that harm a parent’s case for custody:

i) Dishonesty
During an evaluation, parents should maintain honesty with the evaluator. They should not lie about material things such as when the relationship with the other parent became serious, the parent’s availability for outside work, and any negative history. The evaluator is trained to recognize lies.

ii) Bad-mouthing the other parent
Do not bad-mouth the other parent and even worse, do not coach the children to bad-mouth your partner. Issues with the other parent should be phrased as concerns, not blatant attacks, and they should be backed by evidence. In fact, a parent can demonstrate he or she is looking out for the best interests of the child by acknowledging the positive traits of the other parent.

iii) Being uncooperative
It is important to cooperate with the evaluator fully. Make sure to attend interviews, answer all questions truthfully, and avail school and medical records where needed.

iv) Focusing on marital issues rather than the child’s best interests
Do not mix marital issues with parenting issues. The evaluation process does not seek to apportion blame. Rather, evaluators want to determine the best interests of the child. Just because a partner is a poor spouse does not mean he or she is a poor parent.

Child Custody Evaluations in California

Dr. Miriam Galindo pic

Dr. Miriam Galindo

A licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Miriam Galindo holds a doctor of psychology from Trinity College of Graduate Studies. Dr. Miriam Galindo runs a private practice in Irvine, California, where she conducts child custody evaluations.

In California, parents who go through a divorce often have to undergo a child custody evaluation, or a 730 Evaluation. While judges sometimes order these evaluations for concerns related to substance abuse or child abuse, they also order them when parents simply cannot come to an agreement on custody.

A 730 Evaluation may be conducted by four types of professionals in California: psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and marriage and family therapists. If the parents cannot agree on an evaluator, the judge either chooses one or requires the parents to submit a list of potential evaluators. The professional conducting the evaluation assesses the parenting practices and mental health of both parents in order to inform the judge’s orders related to custody and visitation.

The Importance of Culturally Informed Child Custody Evaluations

Dr. Miriam Galindo pic

Dr. Miriam Galindo

Dr. Miriam Galindo is a licensed clinical psychologist and social worker who earned her Doctor of Psychology from Anaheim’s Trinity College of Graduate Studies in 2007. Since 2005, Miriam Galindo has evaluated 286 child custody cases and focused her postgraduate dissertation on the subject of Religion and the Best Interest Standard in Child Custody Evaluations.

The American Psychological Association lists 14 important guidelines for conducting child custody evaluations, one of them being “Psychologists strive to engage in culturally informed, nondiscriminatory evaluation practices.” One of the most important things for psychologists when evaluating child custody cases is to be aware of their own biases – and those of others – against gender, race, age, religion or nationality. Data collection and its interpretation can be misconstrued with a lack of culturally competent insight.

Should the subject of examination possess a cultural or racial background with which the evaluator is unfamiliar, the psychologist is directed to prepare and conduct the evaluation with informed peer consultation and extensive literature review.

Inside Child Custody Evaluations

Miriam Galindo pic

Miriam Galindo

From her private psychology practice in Irvine, California, Dr. Miriam Galindo works with families involved in high-conflict divorces. Dr. Miriam Galindo also serves as a child custody evaluator, having participated in some 300 court cases.

Custody evaluation is the process of determining the needs of children and how the parents can best help meet them. While it concentrates on the children’s situation, custody evaluation also attempts to consider the needs of the family as a whole. It is not intended to decide who is at fault or to choose sides.

The evaluation begins with interviews of both parents, separately and together. The individual interviews will help the evaluator look at each person’s concerns about the children and the other parent. The joint interviews allow the evaluator to see how the parents work together. A session with the entire family can yield more relevant information.

The evaluator may ask permission to access records from schools, doctors, social services, and law enforcement. These will provide an outside perspective of the family environment. As a means of obtaining more information, a judge may also require psychological tests of each parent. A psychologist will then interview both parents and may administer several tests.

Many parents wonder if the evaluator will ask the children who they would like to live with. Although counseling does involve questions about thoughts and feelings, evaluators do not ask children to make that choice.

After these steps have been taken, the custody evaluator will present his or her findings to the judge. In most areas, this information is confidential.

The Importance of Child Custody Recommending Counseling

Child Custody Recommending Counseling pic

Child Custody Recommending Counseling

Based in Irvine, California, psychologist Dr. Miriam Galindo received her undergraduate degree from Chapman University, her master of social work from California State University, Long Beach, and her doctor of psychology from Trinity College of Graduate Studies in Anaheim. Having worked for over 20 years counseling families and children, Dr. Miriam Galindo has been serving at Orange County Superior Court as a child custody evaluators.

Family courts dealing with child custody cases usually provide a service called “child custody recommending sessions” which allow the parents to talk to a specially trained and experienced psychologist who will then help them construct a plan for parenting responsibilities. These sessions are supported by the Family Law Code to mitigate acrimony between the parents and provide for the best interests of the children.

These meetings are important avenues for parents to affirm their position as parents and their ongoing responsibilities despite their decision to separate by writing the parenting plans themselves. Otherwise, the responsibility might be delegated to third parties such as judges, psychologists, or mediators.