Going through a custody battle is a nerve-wracking experience. This is especially true when it occurs in the midst of a nasty divorce. At this time, both parents are bumping heads, which in turn pulls in the children. The courts are all about the best interests of the children, which means you need to prep your client to portray themselves as a fit parent. In many custody cases, a custody evaluation is ordered to help the judge make a final decision.
What is a Custody Evaluation?
A custody evaluation is when a third-party expert (typically a lawyer, mediator or doctor) investigates both sides of the family to determine the best place for the child to live majority of the time. During the investigation, both parents are asked a series of questions. The children are also questioned, if old enough. In most cases, the evaluator will observe the child with both parents in a home setting. At the end of the evaluation, which can stem between two to six months, the evaluator creates a report for the court, recommending a parenting plan and time-sharing plan they believe is in the best interest of the child.
What You Can Do to Prepare?
It’s important to be your best self, but natural. Don’t coach your children on what to say or not say – if the evaluator gets a whiff that you’re coaching the kids, then this will be reported (and it won’t be good for your case). If you’re the one who moved away from the familial home, then you need to set up your home so that it’s kid-friendly.
There should be an extra room for your child(ren) to sleep. The environment should be safe, as well as any people who will be in and around your home. In many cases, friends, neighbors and new boyfriends and girlfriends are investigated to provide a complete picture of the situation.
You should clean up your home and yourself before the evaluator comes. Nothing over the top, but decent. You can even go as far as to buy a new outfit from Lord and Taylor.
At the end of the day, a custody evaluation is designed to give both parents a fighting chance to prove themselves as a fit parent. A third-person view is sometimes what’s needed to determine what’s really in the best interest of the child.