Home studies are not the same thing as a bilateral parenting assessment, but they are similar. Home studies are less comprehensive and consequently much less expensive. Also, home studies do not use any psychological testing.
If parents are unable to agree on a parenting arrangement through mediation, a home study can provide some objective information that will hopefully lead to a settlement. In the event that a settlement is not then achieved, the home study can provide information to an arbitrator, a co-parenting coordinator, or the courts, that would be useful in establishing an interim order. A full bilateral assessment would then be required prior to a final order being made.
Note that if a co-parenting coordinator was in place and had arbitration authority, he or she would likely do the home study himself/herself as part of the co-parenting coordination process.
A home study assesses the home environment that each parent has created, the relationships that the children have with each parent, and the dynamics of the relationship between the parents.