In San Antonio and the rest of Texas, divorce and child custody laws are commonly changing and being updated. Therefore, it is important for those who are going through or planning to go through a divorce or child custody battle to know and be aware of new laws or bills being passed or talked about. One of the most recent bills dealing with child custody cases is Texas HB4062.
About Texas HB4062
Texas HB4062 is a bill that went into effect in Texas on September 1, 2023. This bill requires child custody evaluators to now record interviews. The reason that the bill gives for this is because “there is a lack of transparency during the interview conducted between a child custody evaluator and a child who is the subject of a suit seeking conservatorship of, possession of, or access to the child.”
It is not uncommon for children to answer questions in a different way depending on who is asking the question. For example, a child may feel more comfortable with a parent, sibling, or other family member, causing them to answer questions differently than they would in front of someone they do not know, such as a judge, jury, or child custody evaluator.
This could also be the other way around, where the child feels forced to make their parents or family members happy by answering the questions how they believe they desire them to. The goal of this new law is to ensure that the child’s answers are accurately portrayed and heard on the recordings to make a fair and just decision that is not encouraged or influenced by anyone else. The interviews will be audiovisual recordings, meaning that the judge will be able to see the child as well as hear them answer the interview questions.
What are child custody evaluators and what do they do?
Child custody evaluators are professionals, such as social workers, psychologists, or other mental health providers. The goal of these evaluators is to help the court find out what the best interests of the child are as well as who should have custody of the child. After the child custody evaluators complete their work, they will give a recommendation to the court about what they think is best for the child.
There are several different duties that child custody evaluators are responsible for. Here are a few of the most common tasks that they typically complete:
- Go to the child’s home and see what type of environment the child is living in.
- Watch the parents interact, communicate, and play with the child to gain an understanding of their bond and relationship.
- Examine various documentation and paperwork, such as finances, school records, medical records, and any other information to gain an idea about the family and child.
- Request background checks on the parents to see if they have a criminal record or anything else that may affect their chances of getting custody.
- Interview the parents, the child, and any other children or family members in the household.
- Review the mental health of the child and the parents.
- Determine if the parents’ homes are safe and stable.
- Make recommendations to the judge regarding the child’s best interests.
- Prepare to testify in a trial court hearing about what they found during their evaluations and what they recommend based on what they found.
Can anyone be a child custody evaluator in Texas?
According to Texas Family Code Section 107.104, there are certain qualifications that a person must meet before they can be a child custody evaluator. This ensures that they have the training and experience needed to do what is best for the child. Some of these qualifications include:
- Two years of experience: A child custody evaluator must possess two years of full-time experience providing child custody evaluations, participating in studies or research projects involving child custody, or counseling and offering therapy sessions to children.
- A master’s degree: All child custody evaluators are required to obtain a master’s degree in a variety of different fields, such as social work, family therapy, sociology, psychology, counseling, or a similar field of study. The school that they receive their degree from must be accredited.
- License and certificate: The child custody evaluator needs to receive their license or certificate in Texas. A few of the different organizations that they may become licensed or certified with are the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners, Texas State Board of Marriage and Family Therapists, Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists, and more.
Once an individual begins working as a child custody evaluator in Texas, the rule is that they cannot work on any case where they may know the child, parents, or any other family member.
When are child custody evaluators commonly used in San Antonio?
Child custody evaluators are not called to work on every single child custody case in San Antonio. These professionals are usually only needed for certain cases, which involve:
- Disagreements that are difficult to solve
- Child abuse
- Child neglect
- Alcohol or substance abuse
- Mental health problems
- Relocation issues
When child custody cases become complex and difficult, the judge typically reaches out to child custody evaluators to help them make a decision that is right for the child.
What our San Antonio family lawyers think about this new law
At Grable Grimshaw, our family law attorneys have handled some of the most challenging child custody disputes and cases. It can sometimes be very difficult to determine what is in the best interest of the child and who they should reside with. Therefore, our team believes that it is a great idea that Texas recently passed this legislation, and we think it will make a difference in the outcome of certain cases. Children can be coerced and pressured into saying things during interviews. So, recording these interviews will provide insight into the interview, the child’s answers, and how they feel when it comes to their current situation and future.
If you are thinking about pursuing a divorce and believe that there will be conflict and disputes regarding child custody, the San Antonio family law attorneys at Grable Grimshaw are ready and available to assist you. We know and understand that divorces are never easy. When you add child custody, these cases can become overwhelming and mentally exhausting. However, with the help and guidance of an experienced and skilled lawyer, you can rest assured knowing that your case is in good legal hands. Call our office or submit our contact form to schedule your free and confidential consultation today.