One of the most important decisions a divorcing couple must make is where the children will live and how much time each parent will spend with them. Making this decision is not easy, even where both parents are extremely civil towards each other. Having a family lawyer or mediator assist them in arriving at an amicable solution is therefore highly recommended, especially if the parents cannot agree on child custody arrangements. In cases where there is alleged child sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, substance abuse, or parental unfitness, a decision on who gets the custody of a child or children may have to be determined by a court.
1. Expect to Be Evaluated
One of the best ways to prepare for a parenting assessment is to expect it. A court will most likely appoint a trained child custody evaluator to assess your situation and report back to it. You will, therefore, need to prepare for the evaluator and be ready to answer their questions as honestly and comprehensively as you possibly can. A child custody evaluator is an independent expert whose main aim is to conduct comprehensive interviews with both parents so as to give the court a balanced, accurate picture of the family members. As a parent, having your children go through such interviews could be agonizing. Do your best to prepare them for it.
2. Be Honest and Truthful
While it may be tempting to cast the other parent in a bad light before a child custody evaluator, understand that any serious allegation will be counterchecked with your partner to establish whether it’s true or not. In any case, a professional assessor cannot be so easily duped. Stick with the facts. If you have serious concerns about your partner, don’t hold back as this could end up affecting your child.
3. Don’t Act. Be Yourself.
The last thing you want to do is to give the child custody evaluator a wrong picture of who you really are. Whoever gets to stay with the child should be the one who is most responsible and caring. If, for instance, your career demands so much of you that you are away from home for extended periods of time while the other parent is at home most of the time, don’t hide this information from the evaluator. An evaluation is not an opportunity to bring an exhaustive list of all your partner’s faults. It is also not an opportunity for you to cast yourself as an angel. If you have shortcomings as a parent, don’t hide them from the evaluator; everyone has theirs. The best route would be to realistically and candidly assess your strengths and weakness, and those of your spouse, and present them to an evaluator in a balanced, coherent way.
4. Prepare to Be Scrutinized
One of the things an evaluator will do is to observe each parent with the child, either at home or at the examiner’s office. The evaluator will be looking for insights into each parent’s ability and capacity to handle the kids. The evaluator may go a step further and talk to teachers, employers, day-care providers, therapists, etc. Do not panic! This is done to ensure that your child gets the best custody arrangements.
5. Prepare for Psychological Testing
The evaluator will employ a variety of tests to establish your psychological status, your child’s emotional state, and the quality of your relationship with your child. In some cases, your child may undergo some tests to establish their academic potential and emotional wellbeing. Unless in very unique circumstances, you and your partner should undergo similar tests.
No one can be fully prepared for child custody assessment. However, a lot of progress can be made where both parents agree to cooperate with a court-appointed child custody evaluator whose main goal is to establish how the best interests of the child can be served.