Some couples cannot agree on anything during the divorce process, and must allow a judge to make decisions in court. For matters related to minor children, family court judges often turn to professional custody evaluators to help them decide what is best for the child when it comes to child custody and visitation. Evaluators are specially-trained mental health experts who interview concerned parties, including children, their parents, close relatives, pediatricians and therapists and present their findings to the judge. Judges rely on these evaluations for important decisions, so it is in your best interest to understand the do's and don'ts of custody evaluations.
- Seasoned child evaluators have seen all types of parenting methods and behaviors, so any attempts to appear as the perfect parent will likely backfire, causing the expert to ponder how your over-controlling behavior and perfectionism are harming the child. Just as you might behave in a job interview, be honest about your shortcomings and put a positive spin on your efforts at reform. For example, you may mention your bad habit of yelling and emphasize how you are working towards maintaining a more even tone when dealing with parenting issues.
- Family courts tend to look more favorable upon the parent who is open to the child having a good relationship with both parents. Trust the evaluator to determine the level of custody and visitation that is best for the child, no matter how limited that contact might be.
- Judges who deal in child custody, visitation and child support issues are tasked with making decisions that put the best interest of the child first, so ensure that you take the same attitude during your evaluation process. Try to put aside your emotions and focus on what is best for your child, not for you.
- Tread cautiously when asked for your opinion of the other parent; don't allow yourself to unleash every negative emotion about their fitness as parent to the evaluator. Be fair and reserved when discussing their parenting skills, since the evaluator knows that your attitude could negatively influence your child's opinion as well.
- An experienced evaluator will be able to spot a coached child, so don't be tempted to prep your child in how to answer interview questions. This type of behavior does not fall under the heading of "good parenting" and the evaluator will likely award you with a negative mark as a result.
- Most child evaluators are experts in parenting, but this is not the time to ask for advice from them. It will only make you appear incompetent as a parent and waste the time of the evaluator.
Rely on your divorce attorney or family lawyer to guide you successfully through the evaluation process and offer additional help and advice.