Child Custody Evaluation Tips
Many family law proceedings encourage mediation, settlement and the two ex-spouses reaching their own agreement outside of the court, and child custody is no different. When parents cannot agree on custody and arbitration is necessary, one of the spouses usually requests a child custody evaluation to be ordered. In a child custody evaluation, the evaluator is going to recommend a plan for custody and visitation to both the two ex-spouses as well as the court. It differs from the mediation process; the evaluator will seek out information about the family and will then use that information to make their recommendation to the parents and the court.
In an ideal world, this evaluation is used to reach a settlement, but a judge will use the evaluation to make a court order for the family if amicable terms are not reached. The overarching purpose of a child custody evaluation is to do what is in the best interests of the child, which is a commonly recurring theme in family law. The following tips are handy to keep in mind when going through a child custody evaluation.
Understand the Role of the Evaluator
The first thing to understand about the evaluation process is that the evaluator is not a friend or an ally. They are a neutral arbitrator that is appointed by the court, and they are independent during the proceedings. Avoid treating them like a counselor or someone that you can confide in. That is what your family law attorney is supposed to be for you, and your attorney will also be able to prepare you for the evaluation process.
The evaluation should be treated like a job interview, and the evaluator should be viewed as a potential employer. While an employer is looking into whether you are qualified for a job opening, an evaluator is determining how qualified you are as a parent. Given that you would like to have a favorable evaluation for your sake as a parent, it is imperative to treat the process seriously.
Never Make Extreme Allegations without Evidence and Proof
Jaded or angry ex-spouses may be tempted to treat the evaluation as a chance to damage the credibility of their ex-spouse. Avoid falling prey to this temptation at all costs if there is no proof of serious allegations. Not only is it exceptionally harmful to your evaluation, it will destroy your credibility and seriously impact your case as a whole before the court if you do not have CLEAR PROOF.
Instead, be a kind and reciprocating ex-spouse, acknowledging that your children have benefited from their relationship with the other parent. An evaluator will look kindly on this, especially when compared to gross exaggerations and ill-conceived allegations. Of course, if there are allegations you need to mention that have proof, your family law lawyer will be able to guide you through the next steps to take.
Answer Questions Truthfully and Carefully
Another cardinal sin that must be avoided is lying to the evaluator. An evaluator is a professional, after all, and this means they can often detect embellishments and outright lies fairly regularly. Additionally, all of your answers will be fact-checked with other sources, so be sure to tell the truth.
Along the same lines, answer questions directly and to the point. The questions themselves will typically be direct, so stick to the question and don’t derail the questioning with a tangent that could only harm you. Take the questions slowly and answer carefully. Always gather your thoughts so you are in full control when answering the questions directly and succinctly.
Focus on the Positive During the Evaluation
Always stay positive during the evaluation. This is especially true when it comes to the children, and this your time to demonstrate your knowledge of their interests, friends, school activities, etc. Bring in information about schools (perfect attendance award), church or sports activities (team photos), and doctors (notes). Mention achievements of your children as well as their specific needs that you want to meet for them. The basic takeaway here is that you want the evaluator to know that you are an involved and integral part of the child’s life. In other words, keep the evaluation focused on parenting since that is precisely what is being evaluated.
When your ex-spouse is mentioned, avoid negativity. If a certain situation should be mentioned or is discussed, simply answer the facts, but do not fall into the trap of explaining the facts. The evaluator is capable of making up their own mind, which is what they are doing throughout the process.
Clearly Express Your Desires and Intentions
Be sure the evaluator knows what you desire in terms of custody scheduling. If you want a more flexible schedule, make that clear. While it is less important to mention things like holidays (unless such concerns are hugely significant to you for whatever reason), it is crucial that they understand what your desires are for custody schedules.
Tips for the Day of the Evaluation
On the day of the evaluation, be sure you are well rested. Not only will this help you answer the questions with more clarity, but this also means you can get an early start on the day so you can avoid being late (that puts you at a disadvantage in the evaluator’s eyes before the questions even begin).
Stay focused and calm, remembering that your children are the most important part of this process. Interact with them in the appropriate way, being sure to take care of their needs. Inform them that an evaluator will be asking questions to determine what’s best for the family, but don’t coach them up since evaluators usually notice when a child’s answers have been tampered with. Simply put, show up early and be positive while taking care of your child’s needs. Keep being the best parent you can, and the evaluation process should go smoothly.
Salt Lake City Child Custody Evaluation Attorneys Are Here to Help
An evaluator’s decision is highly influential in the eyes of the judge, but the evaluation is far from the only factor affecting a child custody case. Salt Lake City family law attorneys will prepare you for the other factors you need to know. Custody schedules are modifiable in contested cases, so if an evaluation recommendation or the judge’s order is not desirable, you will need Salt Lake City child custody lawyers that will help you sort out these potential issues. Contact Wall & Wall Attorneys at Law PC today to learn more about how we can prepare you for the specifics of your child custody evaluation and any other legal matters pertaining to the custody of your children.