Even though you may be a wonderful parent, the thought of a child custody evaluation will likely cause some anxiety. No one wants a trained professional assessing their parenting skills — especially when something as important as parenting time is on the line. Thankfully, the divorce lawyers at Sumner & Associates, P.C. are here to help. Keep reading to learn how you can prepare for a child custody evaluation.
What Is a Child Custody Evaluation?
During a child custody evaluation, a trained mental health professional will assess the best interests of the child and make recommendations about how parenting time should be divided. Typically, a child custody evaluation involves:
- Interviews with the parents
- Interviews with the child
- Watching both parents interact with the child
- Reviewing court and other documents
- Contact with third-parties, such as pediatricians, teachers, and daycare providers
Based on all of this information, the evaluator will make a parenting plan. They also might suggest activities that could improve the parenting relationship, such as counseling or classes that focus on post-divorce or breakup parenting.
The evaluator typically will submit this report to the judge. It will serve as powerful evidence in your child custody case.
9 Tips for Preparing for a Child Custody Evaluation
During an evaluation, it’s tempting to put only your best foot forward or point out all of the other parent’s weaknesses. However, the evaluator’s focus is your child’s best interests. They not only will be looking at how much you love and care for your child, but also how willing you are to set your differences aside and create a stable and healthy co-parenting relationship with your ex. (If you were a victim of domestic violence, this might not apply.)
During the evaluation, do your best to be honest, fair, and yourself. While nothing compares to the personalized advice of one of our child custody lawyers, you should follow this simple tips:
1. Stay focused
Answer the questions the evaluator asks you and stop. A child custody evaluation is not the time to for an unsolicited rant about your ex.
2. Admit your weaknesses
While you’ll want to talk about your parenting strengths, you should also admit your weaknesses. The evaluator doesn’t expect you to be perfect.
3. Be professional
You might be angry, hurt, and frustrated with your ex. If you have legitimate concerns about your ex’s parenting skills or your child’s safety, bring them up. However, do your best to stay professional and objective. Remember, the evaluator wants to see evidence of a positive parenting relationship.
4. Follow through on requests
If the evaluator wants information, do your best to provide it. A lawyer can assist you with this process. If you’re concerned about an evaluator’s request, contact a child custody lawyer immediately.
5. Be prompt
Similarly, always show up for appointments and respect the evaluator’s time.
6. Stay open
You can certainly voice your preferred child custody arrangement, but express your willingness to consider other plans that are in your child’s best interest.
7. Don’t “coach” your child
The evaluator is looking for subtle evidence that parents are trying to negatively influence their child’s opinions. Simply assure your child that no one is in trouble and that they should be honest when they talk with the evaluator. Again, your lawyer can help you with this conversation.
8. Your child’s interests are your priority
There’s no doubting that you love your child. However, when you prioritize your child’s well-being over your emotions, the evaluator will notice.
9. Don’t violate a child custody order
If there’s already a child custody order in place, you should never violate it. The evaluator and the judge might use these violations as a reason to reduce your parenting time.
If you have specific concerns about a child custody evaluation, contact Sumner & Associates, P.C. We’ll listen to our cllents’ concerns and help them build child custody strategies that protect their children and their valuable parent-child relationships.
Schedule a Consultation With a Child Custody Lawyer
Sumner & Associates, P.C. is one of Oakland and Macomb Counties’ premier family law practices. We treat our clients with the respect they deserve and fight tirelessly for their child custody and other legal rights. To request a no-risk consultation, contact us today.