What is a Custody Evaluation?
A child custody evaluation is the legal process wherein a court appointed mental health expert, social services evaluator, or home inspector evaluates your family, your home, or both. He or she then makes a recommendation for child custody based on the results of the evaluation. This may include residential custody, visitation recommendations and a scheduling plan.
The idea of a custody evaluation can be daunting, and you may worry about how to prepare. If your intentions are focused on your children, and you are caring for them as best as you can within your means—you’re off to a great start. Prepare by making sure your home is clean, your refrigerator and cupboards are not bare, and that your children have beds with blankets and sheets. The simple things in life that some take for granted are the most important and are what the evaluators will want to see in your home.
Signs of a Bad Custody Evaluation
Sometimes a child custody evaluation results in a negative report, despite your best efforts. You think you’ve done everything right, your children are healthy and happy, but your investigator disagrees. This may be a sign of bad evaluation practices on the part of the investigator.
5 things that your investigator should not request, report, or demand are:
- That you and your spouse should never say anything negative about the other parent, and if you do then you will lose custody. This demand, or requirement, is unfair and diminishes the importance of your emotions. You cannot be expected to never show emotion, especially in such a difficult time.
- That your ex’s behavior is allowed, but that yours is not. If you and your ex are doing or saying similar things but the investigator is clearly favoring one over another, that is grounds for further examination on your part. If the investigator has a clear favorite and their mis-behavior is going unchecked, you have a right to say something.
- That things “out of bounds” will be evaluated, such as assessing your home, or your psychology, when that is not their field or when they weigh something with heavy importance that is not part of the evaluation.
- That they need to spend more or less time with one parent over another. An inequality of time spent in evaluations can change the outcome of their judgement. If the “favorite” parent is not given a thorough evaluation, there is a possibility that the evaluation is inaccurate and detrimental to the stability of your children’s care. In contrast, if the favorite is given substantially more time, then that parent can sway the investigator’s opinion and result in his or her favor.
- That one parent is all good or all bad. Absolutes do not exist in the world of parenting and should not appear in custody evaluations. One parent may bring out the worst in another, but that does not mean that the “bad” parent is bad 100% of the time. Your assets and your weaknesses should be included in your report, as should your ex.
How to Prepare for a Custody Evaluation
Whether you are the one who requested a custody evaluation or have been informed that you need to meet with a child custody evaluator, it is important to be prepared for such an important process.
Here are some helpful tips from our custody attorneys regarding how to recognize the signs of a bad custody evaluation:
- Respect the Custody Evaluator – He or she is an independent contractor and is meant to be impartial. They are not your friend, nor are they your enemy. Treat them with respect at all times in order to protect your character and the possible outcome of your evaluation.
- Prepare for the Custody Evaluation – The most important thing is to show the evaluator that you are prepared. Have yourself, your documents, and your answers prepared in advance so that the evaluator sees you as responsible, as well as respectful of their time.
- Prepare Documentation – The more documentation you have prepared in advance, the smoother the process will be. Thorough documentation of any and all time spent with your child; school schedules; after school activities and transportation; doctor's appointments; etc. can help prove the type of family dynamic you have and the relationship you work hard to maintain with your child.
- Keep Your Home in Readiness – Home visits show an evaluator the time of home environment you provide to your child. Keep your home clean and organized, especially for the home visit, to put your best face forward.
- Control Your Emotions – Custody evaluations and home visits can be stressful. Maybe you didn't want it to happen. Maybe your upset. Whatever the case may be, you are responsible for how you respond to the situation, and how you respond and act during the evaluation could affect the outcome. Keep this in mind and stay in control of your emotions.
Be Prepared for a Custody Evaluation with Help from Our Team
When you are at the end of the rope with your marriage and there is no hope for reconciliation, it is time to talk about divorce. It helps to have an experienced divorce attorney on your side from the beginning.
Our divorce and child custody attorneys at the Law & Mediation Firm of Klueck & Hoppes, APC can work with you as you go through the legal process and can act as logical counsel in the most emotional of times. We can help you to make sure your child custody evaluation is done fairly, and legally, and if not, we will fight for you. We understand that you need someone to stand up for you when you may not be able to fight for yourself, or your children, due to the confusion and emotion associated with this event.
Let us walk with you through your divorce so you can focus on the future. Contact our firm at (619) 577-4900 today!