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Finding Legal Help

You are not required to hire an attorney, but legal matters can be complicated. Consider talking to an attorney to go over your options. See the Finding Legal Help page for information about free and low cost ways to get legal help. 

Como encontrar ayuda legal

Usted no está obligado a contratar un abogado, pero los asuntos legales pueden ser complicados. Considere la posibilidad de hablar con un abogado para hablar de sus opciones. Para información sobre cómo obtener ayuda legal vea nuestra página Como encontrar ayuda legal.

Custody Evaluation

Purpose of a Custody Evaluation

A custody evaluation provides the court with information it can use to make decisions about custody and parent-time. Unless otherwise specified in the order appointing the custody evaluator, the evaluator will consider and respond to the custody factors in Utah Code 30-3-10 and 30-3-10.2.

Custody Evaluation Process

The custody evaluator's report must meet the requirements of Rule 4-903 and must be in substantially the same form as the court-approved form.

The parties may also ask the court to appoint an evaluator. The court will appoint someone to conduct an impartial evaluation and submit a written report. If one of the parties resides outside Utah, the court may appoint two evaluators. If the court appoints two evaluators, the court will designate one as the primary evaluator. The evaluators may submit only one joint report, and they must confer before the evaluation starts. The out-of-state evaluator must meet the minimum qualifications and follow the standards and procedures required by Rule 4-903.

To ask the court to appoint a custody evaluator, file a motion. For more information and forms, see our webpage on Motions. If both parties agree on who the custody evaluator should be, how the expense is to be divided, and what factors are to be considered, file the motion with a stipulation. If the parties do not agree, the motion might be opposed. The motion or stipulation must include:

  • the name, address, and telephone number of each evaluator nominated, or the evaluator agreed upon;
  • the anticipated dates that the evaluation will start and will be finished and the estimated cost; and
  • the factors to be addressed. (For a list of possible factors, see Purpose of a custody evaluation, above.)

If the court grants the motion, the court will:

  • appoint a custody evaluator,
  • apportion payment of the evaluator's fees among the parties,
  • specify dates that the evaluation will start and will be finished,
  • specify the factors to be addressed, and
  • require the parties to cooperate with the evaluator.

Within five business days after gathering the needed information—and without preparing a full, written report—the evaluator will prepare a "Settlement Conference Report" (For a sample, see the Forms section, below.) and notify the court, counsel (including a guardian ad litem if one has been appointed by the court) and parties of the need to schedule a settlement conference. Within 45 days after that notice, the parties or their lawyers must schedule a settlement conference with the court and the evaluator so the evaluator may give a verbal report.

The purpose of the settlement conference is to:

  • reduce the time and expense of preparing a full, written report in cases in which one is not needed;
  • disclose the evaluation findings in a way that is less adversarial and less damaging to family relationships;
  • allow the parties the opportunity to participate in fashioning an agreement; and
  • allow the parties to benefit from the insights of the evaluator while still controlling decisions about their children.

The evaluator will verbally present conclusions and make recommendations if requested by the commissioner or judge. The commissioner or judge will decide any restrictions on what the children are told about the findings and by whom, and restrict distribution of the "Settlement Conference Report."

If any party wants a full, written report, the party must notify the evaluator. If no settlement is reached at or soon after the settlement conference, the evaluator will prepare a full, written report, and the court will set a date for a pre-trial conference. If the evaluator writes a full report, the report must follow the pattern of the "Table of Contents" form in the Forms section, below.

Minimum Qualifications to be a Custody Evaluator

"Custody evaluator" is not a separate, licensed profession. To be a custody evaluator, one must be licensed by the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing (DOPL) as a:

  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker,
  • Licensed Psychologist,
  • Licensed Physician who is board certified in psychiatry,
  • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, or
  • Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor.

Utah Code of Judicial Administration Rule 4-903.

If there are areas of concern in which the evaluator does not possess the necessary education or experience, such as domestic violence, sexual abuse, substance abuse, or mental illness, the evaluator must consult with someone who has the necessary education or experience.

If psychological testing is part of the evaluation, the tests must be conducted by a licensed psychologist who is trained in their use, and who adheres to the ethical standards for the use and interpretation of psychological tests.

Complaints About Custody Evaluators

Custody evaluators do not work for the courts and they are not supervised by the courts. They are private professionals who are regulated and licensed by the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing (DOPL). "Custody evaluator" is not a separate, licensed profession. To be a custody evaluator, one must be licensed by DOPL as a:

  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker,
  • Licensed Psychologist,
  • Licensed Physician who is board certified in psychiatry,
  • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, or
  • Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor.

To report a claim of unprofessional or unethical conduct by a custody evaluator, you must file a complaint with DOPL. The complaint form asks for the profession of the person about whom you are complaining. You may enter "custody evaluator" or, if you know it, the profession (Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, or Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor) that enables the person to be a custody evaluator.

Forms

Related Information

The Utah State Courts mission is to provide the people an open, fair, efficient, and independent system for the advancement of justice under the law.


Page Last Modified: 11/1/2019
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