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Rule 4-903. Uniform custody evaluations.

Intent:

To establish uniform guidelines for the performance ofcustody evaluations.

Applicability:

This rule shall apply to the district and juvenile courts.

Statement of the Rule:

(1)   Custody evaluations shall be performed by professionals whohave specific training in child development, and who are licensed by the UtahDepartment of Occupational and Professional Licensing as either a (a) LicensedClinical Social Worker, (b) Licensed Psychologist, (c) Licensed Physician whois board certified in psychiatry, or (d) Licensed Marriage and FamilyTherapist.?

(2) Every motion or stipulation for the performance of acustody evaluation shall include:

(2)(A) the name, address, andtelephone number of each evaluator nominated, or the evaluator agreed upon;

(2)(B) the anticipated dates ofcommencement and completion of the evaluation and the estimated cost of theevaluation;

(2)(C) specific factors, if any, tobe addressed in the evaluation.

(3) Every order requiring the performance of a custodyevaluation shall:

(3)(A) require the parties tocooperate as requested by the evaluator;

(3)(B) restrict disclosure of theevaluation?s findings or recommendations and privileged information obtainedexcept in the context of the subject litigation or other proceedings as deemednecessary by the court;

(3)(C) assign responsibility forpayment from the beginning of the evaluation through the custody evaluationconference, as well as the costs of the written report if requested;

(3)(D) specify dates forcommencement and completion of the evaluation;

(3)(E) specify any additionalfactors to be addressed in the evaluation;

(3)(F) require the evaluator to provide written notice to thecourt, counsel and parties within five business days of completion (ofinformation-gathering) or termination of the evaluation and, if terminated, thereason;

(3)(G) require counsel and parties to complete a custodyevaluation conference with the court and the evaluator within 45 days of noticeof completion (of information gathering) or termination unless otherwisedirected by the court so that evaluator may issue a verbal report; and

(3)(H) require that any partywanting a written custody evaluation report give written notice to theevaluator within 45 days after the custody evaluation conference.

(4) The purpose of the custody evaluation will be to providethe court with information it can use to make decisions regarding custody andparenting time arrangements that are in the child?s best interest. Unlessotherwise specified in the order, evaluators must consider and respond to eachof the following factors:

(4)(A) the developmental needs ofthe child (including, but not limited to, physical, emotional, educational,medical and any special needs), and the parents? demonstrated understanding of,responsiveness to, and ability to meet, those needs.?

(4)(B) the stated wishes andconcerns of each child, taking into consideration the child?s cognitive abilityand emotional maturity.

(4)(C) the relative benefit ofkeeping siblings together;

(4)(D) the relative strength of thechild's bond with the prospective custodians, meaning the depth, quality andnature of the relationship between a prospective custodian and child;

(4)(E) previous parentingarrangements where the child has been happy and well adjusted;?

(4)(F) factors relating to theprospective custodians' character and their capacity and willingness tofunction as parents, including:

(4)(F)(i) parentingskills

(4)(F)(ii) co-parenting skills(including, but not limited to, the ability to facilitate the child?srelationship with the other parent, and to appropriately communicate with theother parent);

(4)(F)(iii) moral character;

(4)(F)(iv) emotional stability;

(4)(F)(v) duration and depth of desire for custody and parent-time;

(4)(F)(vi) ability to provide personal rather than surrogate care;

(4)(F)(vii) significant impairmentof ability to function as a parent through drug abuse, excessive drinking orother causes;

(4)(F)(viii) reasons for havingrelinquished custody or parent-time in the past;

(4)(F)(ix) religious compatibilitywith the child;

(4)(F)(x) the child's interactionand relationship with the child's step-parent(s), extended family members,and/or any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interest;

(4)(F)(xi) financial responsibility;

(4)(F)(xii) evidence of abuse of thesubject child, another child, or spouse;

(4)(G) factors affecting a determinationfor joint legal and/or physical custody as set forth in Utah Code 30-3-10.2;and

(4)(H) any other factors deemedimportant by the evaluator, the parties, or the court.

(5) In cases in which specific areas of concern exist such asdomestic violence, sexual abuse, substance abuse, mental illness, and theevaluator does not possess specialized training or experience in the area(s) ofconcern, the evaluator shall consult with those having specialized training orexperience. The assessment shall take into consideration the potential dangerposed to the child?s custodian and the child(ren).

(6) In cases in which psychological testing is employed as acomponent of the evaluation, it shall be conducted by a licensed psychologistwho is trained in the use of the tests administered, and adheres to the ethicalstandards for the use and interpretation of psychological tests in thejurisdiction in which he or she is licensed to practice. If psychologicaltesting is conducted with adults and/or children, it shall be done withknowledge of the limits of the testing and should be viewed within the contextof information gained from clinical interviews and other available data.Conclusions drawn from psychological testing should take into account theinherent stresses associated with divorce and custody disputes.

 

Effective November 1, 2016