Here are our “top ten tips” to help you through a custody study:
- Listen to your attorney – Your attorney will give you the advice that you need by explaining the evaluation process, and will give you a good set of instructions to follow.
- Understand the evaluator’s role – He or she is an independent expert. They do not take sides, or advocate for anyone. Their job is to be objective, and assess what is best for the children.
- Prepare yourself – Every appointment with the evaluator needs to be kept, and it is important to arrive on time. Furthermore, be prepared with questions that you may have. You may also find it helpful to write down any additional questions that you may think of during the interview. This will help you remain focused during the meeting.
- Be honest – Be completely truthful with the evaluator. This individual is trained to identify behaviors that indicate untruths. If he or she believes you are not telling the truth, it will affect the final outcome.
- Make a good first impression – Your first impression is important, so make sure your home is orderly and clean. Your residence can be a reflection of your parenting skills. Also, have the health and school records of your children organized and accessible, in case the evaluator wishes to see them.
- Be positive – You will be able to express your concerns regarding the other parent. Do not say bad things about the other parent. Instead, make sure you share their strengths and weaknesses objectively. You also do not want to accuse the other parent of anything, especially when the accusation can’t be supported.
- Only talk about parenting issues – Don’t intertwine marital issues with parenting concerns. A person being a poor husband or wife does not necessarily make them a bad parent.
- Be yourself – Warmly interact with your children, and have books and games available to them while the custody evaluator is making a home visit. It is important for the evaluator to see that your children thrive in your care.
- Be cooperative – Answer all of the evaluator’s questions. You also want to make sure you follow through on anything the evaluator asks you to do before, or after, the meeting. For instance, gather the contact information of people who are close to you and your family. You will need to provide this information to the evaluator You may wish to sign a release that allows them to talk to these individuals.
- The best interests of your children – Be prepared to talk about what is going to benefit your children the most. Have a specific schedule in mind, and justify it. It may be helpful to have a friend role play this part with you. That way they can point out any phrasing that could come off wrong.
By following these tips, you will be better prepared to work with the custody evaluator (your “new best friend” in a contested divorce or paternity case).