If you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement on child custody and visitation, the judge may order a custody evaluation. This evaluation is done by a court-appointed mental health professional experienced and trained in interviewing children and parents.
The results of this evaluation carries a lot of weight with the judge, so it's in your best interest to be as prepared as possible for this process. For the do's and don'ts of custody evaluations, read on:
- Be honest about both your strengths and your shortcomings when it comes to being a parent. No one is perfect, and the evaluator knows this. Just as you would in a job interview, try to put a positive spin on any areas that you are still working on. For example, you might admit to making a greater effort toward using a more even tone of speech instead of yelling when dealing with the child's misbehavior.
- Let the evaluator know that you want the other parent to play a part in your child's life, even if limited. Evaluators, and judges, look more favorably upon parents who encourage the child to spend time with both parents.
- Remember to emphasize what is best for the child. Both the evaluator and the judge will focus in on that point, and so should you in your interactions. For example, you may mention that you are willing to allow the child to spend every weekend with the other parent, since the other parent has access to better recreational opportunities for the child.
- You will likely be asked your opinion of the other parent; this is not the time to trash them, no matter what your personal feelings are. Try to be concise and fair when discussing both the good and less-than-stellar attributes of your spouse.
- Do not do any preparation or coaching of your children. It will be obvious to the evaluator and will result in a negative mark on your evaluation.
- Do not use the evaluation as an opportunity to ask for parenting advice from the evaluator. It show a lack of confidence, is a waste of time and money and makes you look like you are incompetent to parent properly.
When it comes time to prepare your child for the evaluation, be honest and explain that mommy and daddy have different opinions on how to be a good parent and that the evauator is there to help you all. Your divorce attorney will have some more specialized, local advice (he may know the evaluator personally, for example), so discuss the evaluation with your lawyer and have a successful evaluation.
To learn more, contact a company such as The Law Offices of John G. McGill, Jr. with any questions you have.