The Do's and Don'ts of a Child Custody Evaluation

Posted on: 20 October 2016

Decisions involving minor children are among the most hotly contested of all issues during a divorce. If you and your spouse do not see eye-to-eye when it comes to which parent should hold primary custody, your family court judge could seek the assistance of a child custody evaluator. These specially-trained mental health professionals are experts at interviewing all parties and evaluating parental fitness. It's in your best interest to have a complete understanding of this process, since the evaluator's opinion will carry a lot of weight when the judge makes a decision. Read on to learn the do's and don'ts of a child custody evaluation.

The Do's

1. The best interest of the child is at the forefront of any family court decisions, and these courts tend to look more favorably upon parents who desire and intend to facilitate a good relationship between the child and the other parent. Be sure to let the evaluator know that you want your child to spend a good chunk of time with the other parent, regardless of who gets physical custody. For example, if the other parent lives in an area that has better recreation activities and opportunities, you may express a willingness to let the child spend every weekend with the other parent, if it's in the best interest of the child.

2. Evaluators are experienced enough to know when a parent is painting a rosy, but inaccurate, picture of their relationship with their child. Keep in mind that a child, if they are old enough, will be interviewed separately, and evaluators are trained to observe a child's attitude about a parent. No parent is perfect, but admitting mistakes and having a good plan to deal with changing your behavior in the future will win points with the evaluator. For example, if you have not been dealing with misbehavior from your child in a positive manner, acknowledgment of your mistakes and a plan to better deal with misbehavior in the future shows good parenting skills.

The Don'ts

1. You can count on the evaluator asking you for your opinion of the other parent, so tread carefully when answering this question. Now is not the time to denigrate them, regardless of your personal feelings toward your soon-to-be ex. Be fair and factual when discussing them and let the evaluator draw their own conclusions. Trash talking the other parent shows immaturity and a negative attitude, which can deeply affect a child who is already going through a traumatic experience with the divorce.

2. The evaluator can immediately spot a coached child, so don't be tempted to "program" your child for the evaluation. Instead, let them know that they just need to answer the questions and be honest.

3. Don't seek parenting advice from the evaluator. That is not the purpose of the evaluation and will not only be seen as a waste of time, but demonstrates a lack of self-confidence. If the evaluator offers advice, however, accept it gracefully.

For more information about child custody evaluations, speak with your divorce attorney and check out