Utah Rule 4-903 for the Operations of the Courts provides the criteria for custody evaluations in the State of Utah and the required qualifications to serve as a custody evaluator. Generally, the evaluator not only must be a mental health practitioner, but be clinically certified in their field, or in other words, have worked as a psychotherapist for a period of time.
Courts love it when parties hire a custody evaluator, because the judge’s decision is made a lot easier by considering and weighing the testimony of this kind of expert witness. If an evaulator renders an opinion which a party disagrees with, the evaluator’s opinion can be challenged by a competing expert witness in the mental health field.
However, when parties cannot afford a custody evaluator (the cost usually ranges from $3000 to $7000), asking for the court to appoint a private guardian ad litem is a good alternative. A private guardian ad litem is an attorney who has received some training in the area of child advocacy. The guardian will interview the child and other third parties, and can make a recommendation to the court regarding custody as well.