Custody Evaluators vs. Guardians ad Litem – What is the Difference?

Recently, the Ohio Supreme Court issued guidelines regarding custody evaluations in family law cases.

Not every case involves a custody evaluation (nor should every case). Custody evaluators and guardians ad litem provide the court with custody and parenting time information.

But what are the differences between having a custody evaluator or a guardian ad litem in your case? Here’s a primer.

1. Licensed mental health professionals perform custody evaluations. Usually, custody evaluations are done in cases of high conflict or where there are significant parental issues (domestic violence, mental health or substance abuse issues). Custody evaluations can involve psychological testing. Custody evaluators can give the court expert opinions on custody and parenting time.

2. On the other hand, guardians ad litem, who also investigate the background and dynamics of a family, can only give recommendations as to the children’s best interests, including recommendations as to custody and parenting time. They cannot provide expert opinions as to custody and parenting time.

3. An important difference between the two can be cost; in our experience, custody evaluations (unless limited or partial evaluations) are quite expensive compared to the expense of a guardian ad litem.

Exploring the cost differences as well as other differences between the two is something with which our family law attorneys are experienced, and we remain ready to help you with your family law needs.