What To Do If You Received A Poorly Conducted Or Biased Custody Evaluation

The custody evaluation process is a critical juncture in determining the living arrangements and parenting responsibilities for children following a separation and divorce. The fairness and accuracy of this evaluation is paramount, as the outcome can significantly impact the emotional and psychological well-being of the children involved. A poorly conducted or biased evaluation can lead to unjust outcomes, affecting the parent-child relationship for years to come.

So, what are the main signs of a poorly conducted or biased custody evaluation?


The evaluation and report lacks objectivity and neutrality.  A custody evaluator should remain unbiased, impartial or neutral throughout their work when conducting an evaluation.  However, unfortunately, evaluators can sometimes lose their objectivity and become biased in their role.  There are numerous ways in which a custody evaluator can become biased or lose their objectivity during the custody evaluation process – spending considerably more time with one parent, communicating more with one parent (and his or her attorney), adopting preconceived notions about parenting styles or roles, showing undue sympathy towards one parent – which can lead to incorrect and bad outcomes for a child and family.

When poorly conducted and biased evaluations happen, custody evaluators can put their own needs ahead of their clients to the detriment of the process and outcome.  For instance, an evaluator may charge exorbitant fees or appear to put their referral relationship with an attorney ahead of what is in the best interests of the child and family.

Child Custody

Insufficient data gathering.  A thorough evaluation should include interviews with the involved parents and children and with relevant collateral third party informants, such as neighbors, therapists, teachers, family doctors, etc.  An evaluation that relies solely on a few interviews or heavily on one parent’s narrative, without seeking corroborative evidence, will likely lead to incomplete or flawed results.  Failing to contact a child’s pediatrician to verify medical claims made by one parent would be an example of this.  Moreover, while psychological testing isn’t required as part of the evaluation, standardized and objective psychological testing can be very helpful in identifying problems or conditions.  It is not uncommon for a divorcing parent to make claims that the other parent is mentally ill or abusive or has alcoholism or a substance abuse problem.  Sometimes these sorts of accusations are true and sometimes they are not.  In high conflict situations where there is a complex history of problems or when concerning accusations have been made, psychological testing can be invaluable to rule out or confirm problems or conditions.  Moreover, psychological testing can also prove helpful, when needed, for identifying problems or conditions for the involved children.

Child Custody

Ignoring cultural differences.  A custody evaluator who does not consider the cultural background within the family might overlook critical elements of a child’s upbringing and care. For instance, a biased evaluator might unfairly criticize a parent for not providing certain opportunities or judge a parent for having high expectations regarding academics or find fault with a parent’s cultural or religious practices for a child.  What might not seem right to a custody evaluator given their own upbringing and formed and lived beliefs and parenting, may be completely healthy for the family being evaluated.  Thus, when it comes to cultural differences, as well as personality styles and parenting styles, custody evaluators should not superimpose their own beliefs onto parents during the evaluation process.  Evaluators should instead strive to understand the larger context of a parent’s expectations, behaviors and practices when determining the positive or negative impact these sorts of things may have on a child.

Child Custody

Overlooking the child’s preferences.  Custody evaluators should listen closely to what the involved children are saying.  Especially for older children, their expressed concerns, preferences and feelings about each parent can provide important insights. A custody evaluator dismissing these preferences without valid reasoning may not be acting in the child’s best interest.  An example of this might occur when the evaluator ignores a child’s request to spend more time with the parent who has historically been more involved in their lives.

Child Preference

Failing to observe parent-child interactions.  A custody evaluator should spend enough time with parents and children together during the evaluation process.  Direct observations (within the office setting and within the family home) of how each parent interacts with their children offers invaluable information about their relationship. An evaluator who bases conclusions onParenting individual interviews alone, without observing parent-child interactions, might miss signs of positive or negative dynamics and needed information.

So, what should you do if you believe that you’ve received a poorly conducted or biased custody evaluation with inaccurate or harmful results?

Document everything.  Keep a detailed account of all interactions with the custody evaluator, noting anything that might indicate bias or unethical professional behavior. This could include discrepancies in time spent with each parent, apparent disinterest in certain topics, failure to follow up on important information, etc.


Seek a second opinion.  If you believe the custody evaluation was biased or poorly conducted in other ways, requesting a second opinion from another evaluator can be a crucial next step. This request should be made through your attorney who can ensure that it’s done correctly and legally.

losing custody battle

Seek legal recourse.  If a biased and poorly conducted evaluation influences the custody decision, your attorney can file a motion to contest the evaluation’s findings. This might involve presenting additional evidence, requesting a new evaluation, or asking for a hearing to review the evaluator’s findings and methods.  Custody evaluators are required to follow their professional guidelines, and when they don’t, those negatively impacted can report the evaluator to the correct governing body.  In Virginia, you can report your evaluator to the Virginia Department of Health Professions if you believe that you have been wronged.


In conclusion, a custody evaluation is a pivotal element in determining the best interests of a child following a parental separation. Recognizing the signs of a bad evaluation and knowing how to challenge unfair assessments is essential for protecting your rights and ensuring your child’s welfare and future wellbeing.  If you believe that you’ve received a poorly conducted and/or biased custody evaluation, we invite you to contact us for a consultation to discuss your situation at: (703) 723-2999 or info@ashburnpsych.com.

Michael Oberschneider, Psy.D. “Dr. Mike” is a clinical psychologist in private practice.
He can be reached at 703-723-2999, and is located at 44095 Pipeline Plaza, Suite 240, Ashburn