Location: Judicial Center, Room 220
Phone: (240) 777-9065
Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
As part of Montgomery County Circuit Court’s Family Division Services, the Court Evaluators provide independent custody/visitation evaluations and/or assessments in family law cases before the Court. The Court Evaluators’ services are provided only by direct order of the Court .
The following sections provide a brief description of the evaluation services provided by the Court Evaluators:
What does a Court Evaluator Do?
Despite its name, Court Evaluators do not evaluate courts. The function of the Evaluator is to assist the Court and parties in resolving custody and visitation issues raised in a court case. The Evaluator is a neutral and objective fact finder and is not an advocate for either party or the child(ren). The focus is the best interest of the child(ren). The Evaluator investigates the circumstances of the parties and children, forms recommendations on the issues directly involved in the court case, and presents those findings and recommendations to the Court and the parties at a scheduled court hearing called the Settlement/Status Conference. If the parties are represented by counsel, the evaluator conducts the presentation in chambers with the Family Division Master and counsel. If a party is Pro Se (not respresented by counsel), the evaluator conducts the presentation on the record in the hearing room before the Family Division Master, counsel and parties. The Evaluators offer two levels of service: a full evaluation and/or an assessment which is a limited evaluation.
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How is the process started?
The Evaluators’ services are only undertaken by direct order of the Court. At a scheduled court hearing called the Scheduling Hearing, a Family Division Master will order an evaluation or assessment if h/she ascertains that the Court and the parties would benefit from the additional input of the evaluative process. If the case is a Post Judgment case, a motion must be made for an evaluation/assessment to be ordered providing the reason(s) an evaluation/assessment is needed.
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What happens once the evaluation or assessment is Court ordered?
At the Scheduling Hearing, the Family Division Master will instruct the parties to immediately go to Family Division Services, located in Room 220 of the Judicial Center, to meet with an Evaluator for an intake interview. The intake process provides the Evaluator with an opportunity to begin the investigative process and gather essential information to assess further the needs of the parties. Each party is briefly interviewed by the Evaluator separately. Intake takes place Monday through Friday from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. Children are not permitted in the intake interview.
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What is the difference between an evaluation and an assessment?
The custody/visitation evaluation is an in-depth process that concludes with an oral presentation at the Settlement/Status Conference and a written report presented to counsel, pro se litigants, and the Court before the Custody Merits Hearing. This report contains a psychosocial history and generally extensive collateral contacts that may include school personnel, therapists, governmental agencies and litigant references. Again, the Evaluator participates in the Settlement/Status Conference and if the parties cannot reach a consent agreement, the Evaluator provides a written report prior to the Custody Merits hearing and may testify at the Custody Merits Hearing.
Assessments are essentially less involved evaluations. In assessments and evaluations, Evaluators conduct indepth interviews with parties individually at the Court at Family Division Services. Interviews generally last between two and three hours, and children and any other persons are not permitted in the interview. This includes attorneys, family members, etc. Children will be observed with the respective parent in their home or at the Court depending on whether the party resides in Montgomery County. The observation generally lasts an hour. The children may be interviewed as is age appropriate at the Court. In an assessment, an oral report to the Court is presented on the record at the Settlement/Status Conference based on the information gathered from interviews and observations. The Evaluator’s presentation begins with an oral summary of the concerns of the parties, progresses through the Evaluator’s observations with explanatory comments, and concludes with recommendations to the Court.
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Is there a cost for the evaluation or assessment?
No. When the Court orders these services to be performed by the Court Evaluators, it is done free of charge to the parties. If the parties decide to seek the services of a private evaluator, they will be responsible to pay for that service.
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Are investigations Court ordered in other types of Family Court cases?
Yes. The Court Evaluators also conduct adoption home study investigations and reviews home studies provided by other agencies or independent contractors. At the Court’s request, the Court Evaluators also conduct guardianship and other special issue investigations.
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Court Evaluation Staff
The Court Evaluators’ Office currently consists of 8 full time evaluators, 1 part time evaluator, and 1 full time manager, all of whom are licensed Social Workers . In addition to custody/visitation evaluations and assessments, the Evaluators conduct classes for the Family Division Services’ Co-Parenting Skills Enhancement Program and the Managing Court Evaluator provides oversight to Court’s Supervised Visitation Program.
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