In Family Court cases where the parents cannot reach an agreement about their children’s custody arrangement and parenting time schedule, either during a divorce or related to changes in their circumstances after divorce, the Court may order a custody evaluation and report concerning custodial arrangements in the children’s best interest according to Minnesota Statute §518.17. The evaluation and report will be made by an independent Custody Evaluator. In each case, the parents are charged a fee for the Custody Evaluator’s services. Minnesota statutes govern the responsibilities and conduct of the Custody Evaluator.

In preparing a report that addresses a child’s best interests, the Court expects the Custody Evaluator to consult
any person who may have information about the child and the potential custodial arrangements, including but not limited to members of the extended family, neighbors, school personnel, law enforcement background checks, the children’s and parents’ healthcare providers, and the parents’ mental health and chemical dependency providers. Upon order of the Court, the Custody Evaluator may refer the children or the parents to healthcare experts for diagnosis as part of the evaluation. Custody evaluation is a lengthy process where families experience a loss of normal levels of personal privacy.

The report submitted by the Custody Evaluator to the Court must consider and evaluate each of the best interest factors in section 518.17, subdivision 1, and include a detailed analysis of all information considered for each factor. If joint custody is requested by either parent, the report must consider and evaluate the factors in section 518.17, subdivision 2, state the position of each party and the investigator's recommendation and the reason for the recommendation, and reference established means for dispute resolution between the parties.

Depending on the nature of the parents’ custody and parenting time disagreements and the travel requirements for the Custody Evaluator to complete the court-ordered evaluation, a typical evaluation will take from 20 to 200 hours to complete all statutory requirements. Northwest Mediation & Custody Evaluation Services uses a
Custody Evaluation Agreement with a sliding fee schedule and non-refundable initial retainer for which the parties are equally responsible unless otherwise ordered by the Court. Our Custody Evaluators are members of the United States and Minnesota chapters of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts and the Minnesota Association of Custody Resolution Specialists.

Northwest Mediation & Custody Evaluation Services staff are fully trained neutrals
as defined under Minnesota General Rules of Practice Rule 114,
and proud members of the

NWM&CES is a member of the AFCC