When the custody of a child is contested during a divorce, the court may appoint an evaluator to analyze the parents and their living situations in order to determine which parent should be granted primary custody. The evaluator is an expert, typically a psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker, and the assessment is conducted and analyzed objectively. A parent who is facing the evaluation process should take certain steps to be prepared and make a good impression on the evaluator so that the correct recommendation can be made to the court.
Making a good first impression
Part of making a good impression is the parent’s attitude toward the process. Expressing negativity or anger about the evaluation or the custody dispute can create an adverse impression, while full cooperation and a positive attitude reflect well on the parent.
Another aspect of the first impression is arriving on time to all appointments with the evaluator and dressing conservatively. Before a home visit, the home should be cleaned thoroughly and the children provided with appropriate entertainment to keep them occupied during the appointment. Children should be prepared for the visit so that the evaluator is not perceived as a threat.
Approaching the evaluation with honesty
Many parents find the evaluation process unnerving and even emotional. The custody evaluator does not expect parents to avoid emotion or to attempt to conceal anxiety about the interviews and home visit. The evaluator does expect honesty, and this is a key factor in the evaluation process. During the interview, a parent should consider and answer all questions as honestly as possible and ask for clarification whenever necessary to provide complete answers.
In addition to the things a parent should say and do, there are others that should be avoided at all costs, including the following:
Evaluators are adept at identifying dishonesty and will include any instances in the information provided to the court.
Preparing supporting documentation and information
During a child custody evaluation, the evaluator often asks for additional information during the interview, such as school and health records. Having these organized and on hand is helpful. Personal references are also typically requested. A parent should speak to potential references ahead of time and gather contact information in order to have the documents available when they are requested.
An attorney experienced in the legal issues involving divorce and custody can give guidance and help a parent to be prepared during an evaluation.
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