What Happens During a Child Custody Evaluation?
During a child custody evaluation, the evaluator will interview both parents. They will also observe the parent’s interactions with the child, review all court and legal documents involved in the case, and perform psychological testing if it is necessary. The evaluator will then produce a report for the judge.
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They will then evaluate whether or not it is in the best interests of the child to award sole or joint legal custody, residential custody, parenting time and a schedule of custody and visitation. The evaluator will also consider the age of the children and what would be best for them in terms of education, religious beliefs, medical needs, extracurricular activities and socialization.
Some evaluators will conduct joint interviews with both parents. This allows both parties to have a chance to communicate with one another about their concerns and their desires for the child. This is an important aspect of the process and will help the evaluator understand the strengths and weaknesses that both parents bring to the process.
These interviews can be difficult for both the evaluator and the child to endure. Many child custody evaluators are highly trained professionals who are experienced in dealing with these difficult situations.
There are a lot of things that can go wrong during an evaluation, so it is important that both parents be open and honest with the evaluator. Be willing to answer all of the questions asked, as well as provide information about your family that may be helpful.
The evaluator will likely want to come to your home for interviews and observations. Be prepared and make sure your home is clean before they arrive. You can give them copies of any past court documents and any other information that they request.
You should avoid badmouthing the other parent or his or her family, as it will only exacerbate the situation. Try to focus on your children’s issues and solutions.
This can be particularly difficult if you are trying to have your children attend the evaluation with you, as they are likely to feel frightened and confused about the entire process. Reassure your children that the evaluator is not there to take sides, but to learn more about your family and how you care for your children.
Be honest about your own parenting abilities and strengths, but also recognize that the evaluator is not there just to look for weaknesses or deficiencies in you. This will help you get through the process more smoothly and efficiently.
In addition, you should keep your discussions positive and constructive. If the evaluator finds that your parenting skills are lacking, then they will probably recommend a parenting course or therapy to help you improve.
In some cases, a family law judge will give you a list of approved evaluators to choose from. Be sure to inquire about their experience as a child custody evaluator and make sure they have the specific training that your particular situation requires.