Custody & Visitation-Related Assessments

Resources for court-appointed and court-approved practitioners

Custody & visitation-related assessments provide valuable evidence to the court in case involving disagreement over when a child spends time with each parent (called parenting time, access, or physical custody) or how major decisions about them will be made (called decision-making authority or legal custody). They include:

  • custody evaluations,
  • specific issue evaluations,
  • mental health evaluations, and
  • home studies.

Learn about these assessments and other family services at Learn about child custody at

Training for practitioners
Effective April 1, 2022, unless waived by the court, court-appointed and court-approved custody evaluators must have completed or commit to completing the next available training program that conforms with Training Guidelines set by the Administrative Office of the Courts. See Rule 9-205.3(d)(2). The following training programs conform with the Training Guidelines:

  1. Custody and Visitation-related Assessment Training | Juvenile & Family Services, Administrative Office of the Courts | May 15-17, 2023 | Annapolis, MD
  2. The Fundamentals of Conducting Child Custody/Parenting Plan Evaluations |Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) | Various dates | Online/In-person

Best practices for practitioners
To promote good practice and consistency in the performance of custody evaluations, the Maryland Judiciary encourages custody evaluators to review the guidelines from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers’ (AAML) Child Custody Standards. The guidelines are also helpful for practitioners who perform other custody and visitation-related assessments.

The failure to follow a guideline does not itself give rise to a cause of action against a practitioner, nor does it create any presumption that a duty has been breached.

  • Commitment to Accuracy: Custody evaluators should strive to be accurate, objective, fair, balanced, and independent in gathering their data and should be prepared to defend decisions made by them concerning their methodology.” AAML 4.2.
  • Use of Diverse Methods: Custody evaluators should use multiple data gathering methods to enhance accuracy and objectivity. AAML 4.3.
  • Use of a Balanced Process: Custody evaluators should use a balanced process in order to increase objectivity, fairness and independence. AAML 4.4.
  • Use of Reliable and Valid Methods: Custody evaluators should use empirically based methods and procedures of data collection. AAML 4.5.
  • Assessment of Children: Custody evaluators should individually assess each child who is the subject of the evaluation.” AAML 4.7. This shall include an interview with each child unless that is impossible, in which case the custody evaluator must explain why. See Rule 9-205.3(f)(1)(C).
  • Parent-Child Observations: The custody evaluator should observe each parent-child combination, unless there is a risk to the child’s physical or psychological safety.” AAML 4.8. The custody evaluator has discretion to observe each party with each child or with multiple children.
  • Assessment of Parents and Interviews of Those in Caretaking Roles for the Child(ren) and/or Those Living in a Household with the Child(ren): Custody Evaluators should assess each parent and should interview all adults who perform a caretaking role for the child(ren) and/or live in a household with the child(ren). See AAML 4.6.
  • Incomplete, Unreliable, or Missing Data: Custody evaluators should disclose incomplete, unreliable or missing data.” AAML 4.10. If there are any high neutrality/low affiliation collateral sources the custody evaluator was not able to contact or to obtain information from, that should be explained by the evaluator.