Peterson v. Thompson

February 16, 2024

In 2013 a child custody evaluation was done after a child welfare referral was made against Mother. The evaluator recommended individual therapy and supervised visitation. For the next several years, Mother attended therapy and supervised visitation. Mother was paying child support, cost of the supervised visitation, and trying to repay her share of the monies owed to the child custody evaluator. In 2015, Mother filed for bankruptcy and in 2016 she filed a request to reinstate joint legal and physical custody.

At the hearing on Mother’s 2016 custody request, the trial court ordered the parties to get an updated child custody evaluation. Mother repeatedly objected to this order because she could not afford to pay the evaluator any more money. The trial court, however, ordered the evaluation and that Mother pay part of the cost.

Mother appealed. Noting that the Legislature has made it clear that the court must consider a party’s ability to pay when assigning costs, such as child custody evaluations, the Court of Appeal overturned the trial court. The Court of Appeal held that when a trial court orders a child custody evaluation, the court must 1) decide if the evaluator should receive any compensation, 2) determine a reasonable amount of compensation, and 3) state who has to bear the costs of and what portion of the cost. The trial court must also consider someone’s income, expenses, and ability to pay.

Family Law

Was this resource helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!