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Family Court Services and Child Custody Evaluation



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In Family Court, when parents can’t agree about how their child will be cared for when the parents live apart from each other (child custody and parenting plan), court provides mediation or child custody recommending counseling to help parents negotiate an agreement. When parents still can’t agree, the judicial officer (judge or commissioner) will make a decision at a hearing. The judicial officer may order a child custody evaluation to assist in this process (a parent can also ask to have an evaluation ordered).

In Superior Court for Placer County, Family Court Services will assign a qualified professional under contract with the court to conduct court-connected child custody evaluation when fees are paid to the court.

Professionals under contract with Placer Superior Court as child custody evaluators are licensed psychologists, marriage and family therapists (MFT), and clinical social workers (LCSW) who have received specialized training and experience in child custody evaluations

Court may also appoint a qualified private evaluator who is not connected to Family Court Services to conduct the evaluation.

Purpose of the Evaluation

Purpose of the child custody evaluation is to investigate and provide an analysis of the health, safety, welfare, and best interests of the child, and to provide the court recommendations regarding the issues specified in the order. In cases where the court has determined that there is a serious allegation of child sexual abuse, state law requires that the evaluator conduct a detailed investigation if the court is considering permanent child custody or visitation orders.


Evaluator may do all or any of the following to gather and assess information:

  • Review court documents in the family law custody case file;
  • Obtain and review documents related to custody, which may include any available police reports, law enforcement records, juvenile records, child’s medical, dental, mental health, and other health-care records and school and educational records;
  • Interview parents individually and/or jointly;
  • Observe parent-child interaction;
  • Interview the child’s family members and/or others who have had contacts with the child;
  • Interview professionals who have provided care for the child;
  • Make a home visit to each parent’s home;
  • Consult with other experts; and/or
  • Interview the child (depending on the child’s age and maturity) individually, or with a parent or other person(s).


Any additional documents submitted by a party to the evaluator must be served on the other party at least 3 days before the initial appointment and provided with a Proof of Service. Evaluators are not required to read more than 30 pages of additional documents.

If psychological test reports are available, evaluator may review and consider them. However, psychological tests will not be administered by the evaluator assigned by Family Court Services.

Time required to gather and assess the information will vary depending on the issues evaluator will investigate, amount of documents to review, number of persons to interview, travel time to and from each parent’s home, etc. Many evaluations require 12 to 20 hours of the evaluator’s time.

Scope and Distribution of the Evaluation Report

The Evaluation report will include the evaluator’s recommendation and describe what procedures and sources of information that were used in making the recommendation. The report contains a summary of the information collected, the evaluator's assessment of the family dynamics and the needs of the children, and responds to the orders concerning the focus of the Evaluation, such as parenting plan or sharing of time.

The original report is sent to the court ten (10) days prior to the hearing. The report will be placed in a confidential sealed portion of the court’s file. Evaluator will also send copies of the report to each party and/or the attorneys. If this is not possible, evaluator will give notice.

Confidentiality and Limitations of the Process

The information in the Evaluation report is confidential and will not be shared with anyone other than the judicial officer and the other party in your case. Under no circumstances should the report be shared with, read to, or discussed with, the children.

However, if the evaluator suspects child abuse or neglect, the evaluator will report it to Child Protective Services (CPS) or a law enforcement agency.

If during the evaluation process, a serious threat of physical violence against someone is made, the evaluator will contact and warn the person who is the target of the threat and report the threat to a law enforcement agency.

Cost and Payment Responsibility

The cost of court-connected child custody evaluation for Placer Superior Court is $1,500. The fees are due at the time the Evaluation is ordered. The petitioner and/or the respondent must each pay the fee that the judicial officer has ordered for their share of the evaluation (please see the second page of the Order Appointing Court Evaluator for your case for the amount each party is to pay). The court reserves jurisdiction to reapportion the responsibility for the fees between the parties.

Unless court orders otherwise, Family Court Services will not assign an evaluator until the payments have been received and proof of payment is made available to Family Court Services.

Payment should be made to:

Placer County Superior Court
Finance Office
PO Box 619072
Roseville, Ca. 95661-9072

Communications with Parties & Attorneys

Parties and attorneys in the case cannot talk or write or otherwise communicate directly with the evaluator about the issues in the case without the other parties' knowledge or a court order. Evaluator also cannot communicate with the judicial officer about the case without the parties’ knowledge.

Court Testimony by an Evaluator

To have the court-connected evaluator appear as a witness to testify at a deposition or a hearing, a subpoena should be served on the court-connected contract evaluator at the evaluator’s private office. The evaluator may require a deposit at the time of service of the subpoena for time spent to prepare and deliver testimony and for travel time. The contracted evaluators set and charge a separate hourly rate for their testimony time.

Questions and complaints

Feedback from the users of the child custody evaluation process is very important and serves to improve the service. Complaints about services provided by court-connected evaluators may be addressed in writing to:

Placer County Superior Court
Director: Family Court Services
Bill Santucci Justice Center
PO Box 619072
Roseville, CA 95661-9072

The Director or the Court Assistant Executive Officer will review the complaint, the case file, and discuss the matter with the evaluator. A written response will be sent to the person filing a complaint. If the complaint is not satisfactorily resolved, it may be brought to the attention of the Supervising Family Law Judge at the same address.


A Brief Outline of the Evaluation Process

  • The Court orders an Evaluation.
  • You provide your name and address to the court at that time.
  • The Court’s “Order Appointing Court Evaluator”, is given to the parties, and included in the Court file and processed by Family Court Services.
  • Payments are made by the party ordered to pay to the Court’s Finance Office at:
  • Placer Superior Court
    Finance Unit
    PO Box 619072
    Roseville, CA 95661

  • Evaluator will be assigned and an order appointing the assigned evaluator is issued.
  • The parties contact the assigned evaluator and/or the evaluator contacts the parties by phone, mail or email to begin the evaluation process.
  • If you are given a questionnaire by the evaluator, complete it and submit it as requested by the evaluator.
  • The evaluator interviews you and the other parent, either together or separately.
  • The evaluator makes appointments with you to interview or observe your children either at the evaluator’s office, Family Court Services (courthouse), or in your home.
  • The evaluator may request information about the other members of your household. The Evaluator may also meet and or interview these individuals.
  • Age appropriate individual interviews with each child will be conducted. This may include step or half siblings. The evaluator may also call and/or meet with other people who have pertinent information. Evaluator may collect corroborating information or documents that may include criminal background checks.
  • Other than as directed by the evaluator, information you have to offer in this process has to be shared with all parties at the same time (see Local Rule 30.5.1 E). Your evaluator can explain this to you to avoid any problems.
  • The evaluator may call you back or set up more interviews as necessary.
  • The evaluation report will be available to you ten (10) days before the court hearing. They are sent to attorneys or self-represented parties. If this is not possible, evaluator will give notice.
  • At any point in this process, if the parties agree to resolve the issues in question, the evaluator may help prepare a stipulation or discuss with both sides the next steps to take.
  • The Court considers the evaluator’s report at the Court hearing.


© 2021 Superior Court of Placer County