Parent evaluations are designed to assess a party’s parental strengths and weaknesses for the purpose of answering specific questions that the Court has. Unlike custody evaluations, parenting evaluations are not typically comparative. For instance, in Child Protective Proceedings, the evaluator is typically asked to assess whether a parent meets minimal parenting standards, and whether having a child in the care of a particular parent poses a risk to the child’s well being.
In the more extreme case of Termination of Parental Rights, the Court has already established that the parent has failed to meet a minimal parenting standard, and the question the evaluator is typically asked to consider is whether the parents’ deficits are of sufficient gravity and not amenable to change for the foreseeable future to warrant a termination of the parents’ right to a particular child.
Another type of parenting evaluation is an Adoption Study, in which parental strengths/weaknesses are explored in making a determination as to whether a parent’s adoption of a child should move forward. In these types of evaluations the operating assumption is that a prospective parent meets minimal parenting standards.
Some of the special issues that the Court might ask the forensic expert to address in a parenting evaluation (including custody evaluations) are:
Domestic violence – in this instance, an evaluator is asked to assess the presence of domestic violence in a family and whether a parent might place their child’s well being at risk by virtue of their propensity to resolve conflict through violent means.
Mental Illness – in this instance an evaluator is asked to assess the presence of mental illness and the likely impact of a mental condition on a party’s ability to adequately parent.
Substance abuse – in this instance an evaluator is asked to address the Court’s concerns about the potential propensity by a parent to misuse alcohol and/or drugs and its impact on the capacity to parent.