Child Custody Evaluations

Custody evaluations, or parenting time studies, are often court ordered when there is a question of parental fitness in a custody case where parents are separating or divorcing. These studies are frequently performed by a forensic psychologist, and consist of parental interviews, child interviews, home visits, psychological evaluations, and collateral reports from friends, family, and professionals in the child's life such as doctors and teachers. The evaluator may also order drug testing or additional interviews as necessary. Though these studies are invasive and may last several months, they are a good way to establish your concerns and achieve the safest and best outcome for your child's well being. Here are 5 tips for effectively presenting your concerns about the other parent to a custody evaluator:

  1. Be as factual as possible. Stick with dates, times, and events as accurately as possible. Avoid putting interpretations to actions or diagnoses on your partner.
  2. Avoid over emotionalism. While it is appropriate to be upset over what is happening and about the welfare of your children, don't come into every interview crying uncontrollably. Some expression of hurt is expected, but if it is too excessive the evaluator may begin to question your emotional stability.
  3. Put your statements of concern or criticism of the other parent in the context of how the actions negatively impact, or could impact, the child. For example, if your partner is having an affair, explain that the chaos and emotional upheaval this brings into the home environment is damaging to the children. If your partner is using drugs, explain the concerns you have about him or her being under the influence around the children, and leaving drugs or related paraphernalia around where the kids could find it.
  4. Be honest about your own shortcomings. If you've done anything that could be seen as negatively impacting the child, explain what it is and that you understand the potential or actual effects, and make it clear you are not engaging in the behavior any longer. If you aren't up front, the other parent will likely present it with his or her own spin on it to discredit you.
  5. Keep a log of any ongoing actions of your partner that concern you. As incidents occur, email or call the evaluator to keep him or her informed. Again, stick to facts.

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