There were 132 press releases posted in the last 24 hours and 399,280 in the last 365 days.

New Rule Standardizes Child Custody Evaluators

Image of a man and woman walking while holding a child's hands

A recently authorized rule creates guidance and specifics necessary for mental health experts to perform child custody evaluations.

Image of a man and woman walking while holding a child's hands

A recently authorized rule creates guidance and specifics necessary for mental health experts to perform child custody evaluations.

The Ohio Supreme Court has approved a new rule that provides guidelines and standards for courts and mental health professionals who evaluate child custody cases.

Effective Sept. 1, 2022, Rule 91 in the Rules of Superintendence for Ohio establishes requirements for custody evaluators, while providing accountability and uniformity of practice necessary to safeguard the well-being of children and families within the state’s 88 counties.

A custody evaluator is an objective, impartial, qualified mental health professional appointed by the court to perform a child custody evaluation.

Prior to its approval, there had been no statute or statewide court rules to specifically govern the specialty practice of child custody evaluation.

Specifics of Rule 91 address how custody evaluations should be conducted and what is to be expected of an evaluator.

The standardization of these experts includes necessities, such as education and licensure requirements, initial training and continuing education, evaluation components, and evaluator responsibilities and ethical considerations.

From a court perspective, the rule creates judicial system requirements including how evaluators are appointed.

To ensure accountability and transparency, a complaint and removal process must be created by the local court as well as provisions regarding custody evaluation reports and the ability to access them.

Guidelines for an initial education program and continuing education in conjunction with the rule have also been developed. An education program must include how to perform custody evaluations, the intersection of mental health and the legal system, core competencies, and other specialized subject areas.

The Ohio Judicial College will offer education. Any education presented by outside providers will be approved by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on Children & Families spearheaded the policy change with a workgroup of judges, magistrates, and mental health professionals to examine custody evaluation issues. The group reviewed existing provisions in Ohio law, other states’ rules, and practice standards of leading national professional associations to tailor standards for custody evaluations in Ohio.

The Advisory Committee will also develop a toolkit with a sample local rule and sample order of appointment to assist local courts’ implementation.