Custody or parenting time evaluations are typically performed when there is a question about parental fitness. An evaluation may be requested by either or both parents during a separation or divorce proceeding, and is typically performed by a forensic psychologist. Typically, a complete evaluation will consist of interviews with both parents, psychological testing, in home visits with each parent, interviews with the child (if she or she is old enough), and interviews with both professionals (teachers, pediatricians, and the like) and friends and family members. This process may take several months and should be requested right away if one parent has a concern. While these custody evaluations are never easy, they can be successfully navigated using some simple strategies. Here are 5 tips for presenting your case effectively to custody or parenting time evaluators:
1. Stick to the facts. Report times, dates, and the basic facts regarding behavior that concerns you. Do not offer your “diagnosis” of what your partner’s problem is. Stick to describing the behavior as accurately as possible.
2. Avoid over emotionalism. Of course this is a very stressful and emotionally charged situation, but you need to be sure you seem logical and rational. If you cry through every session or interview, the evaluator may begin to question your emotional stability. Being upset is understandable, and you can certainly express it, just don’t allow it to overcome you on a regular basis.
3. Give all information as much as possible in the context of how the behavior has, or might, negatively impact the children. The evaluator isn’t as concerned how lousy a partner your spouse has been to you (though he or she will want to know if you have been abused in any way). You can still present information in its entirety — for example, if your spouse is having an affair, you can explain that the action injects chaos and tension in the household that harms the children.
4. Be honest about your own shortcomings. If you don’t acknowledge and own up to mistakes you have made, your partner will be happy to fill in the evaluator with the worst spin on the story. Again, present your faults in terms of how they could have or did impact the children, but be sure to acknowledge that you understand the ramifications of your actions and are now behaving to a better standard.
5. Update the evaluator with relevant information as it happens. If your spouse has a destructive pattern of behavior, chances are there will be further incidents to report during the evaluation process. Again, stick with facts – times, dates, incidents, all framed in terms of their impact upon your children.
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