If a judge has ordered a custody evaluation to help determine the issue of child custody in your divorce, you’re likely nervous and perhaps a little resentful. That’s understandable. Likely, you and your co-parent are both undergoing separate evaluations.
Just focus on your own evaluation. The more you understand about the role of the evaluator and the evaluation, the better prepared you’ll be.
The evaluator’s role
The evaluator may come to your home. They’ll likely want to see you interacting with your children talk with them separately and/or together with you. Your evaluator may want to see your children’s medical and school records.
The evaluator’s role is to determine what’s best for your children. That should be your focus, also. That means not talking about what kind of custody arrangement is convenient for you and not criticizing your co-parent. Don’t tell the evaluator what a bad spouse they were. You can objectively talk about their strengths and weaknesses as a parent, but you want to show that you can work with your co-parent.
Be yourself – but make a good impression
That means having a clean home (and kids) and nutritious food in the refrigerator. However, your home doesn’t need to look like a museum. It should look like a place where children live (or could live) and be comfortable.
The evaluator will likely want to see you interacting with your kids. They can spot phony interactions and when kids have been “coached.” While everyone should be on their best behavior, they should also be themselves. Don’t tell the evaluator something your child is likely to contradict. No evaluator is going to expect a perfect family, because there’s no such thing.
Be respectful and cooperative
This starts by being on time for every appointment, whether it’s over the phone, via videoconference or in person. Even if you’re angry that your parenting skills are being questioned or judged, that’s not the evaluator’s fault. Don’t take it out on them.
They may ask you for references and will likely need your written permission for others, like family members, friends and others to talk to them about your family. Give that to them.
It’s best to talk to your attorney first and let them address your questions and issues before you meet the evaluator. They’ll help you prepare so you can make the most of your custody evaluation.