If you are divorcing with children, and you and the other parent are having arguments about child custody or believe the current custody arrangement is not working, the court may order a child custody evaluation. This is a process in which a psychologist evaluates you, your child, and the other parent to make recommendations to the court regarding custody and visitation.
Child custody evaluations are performed to ensure that the needs of children are being met as best as possible. This is also known as the best interests of the child. During this assessment, the psychologist will pay particular attention to the skills and deficits of the person’s parenting techniques and how they meet or fail to meet the psychological needs of the child.
A child custody evaluation is stressful for many parents. Here is a look at the process and what you can do to prepare.
What is the Process?
A focus of a child custody evaluation is to investigate and evaluate your child’s health, safety, and welfare. The psychologist will perform multiple tasks to observe the parents and how they interact with the children. They will conduct multiple interviews with each co-parent separately as well as with the child. They will observe each co-parent as they interact with the child.
The psychologist will review previous court and legal activity regarding the divorce and custody case. They may also conduct interviews with others involved with the family, such as the child’s teachers and doctors. If necessary, they can perform psychological testing on anyone in the family.
If there are allegations of child abuse, a lengthier evaluation will be required. The psychologist will interview child welfare services and law enforcement to get information about the allegations.
Based on the information they gather, the psychologist will generate a report for the judge. This report will include their recommendations on how child custody should be awarded.
How to Prepare
Knowing that your parenting skills will be under scrutiny can be a nerve-wracking experience. However, you should not let your stress get the better of you and ruin your evaluation. Here are some ways you can prepare:
- Be cooperative with the evaluator. Even if you oppose the child custody evaluation, be cooperative so that the evaluator does not get the wrong impression.
- Be on your best behavior. In fact, you should be more than cooperative. Some parents treat this process like a job interview. Dress appropriately and be punctual and honest.
- Be organized. Your evaluator may request your case documents at some point during the evaluation, so have them ready.
- Show that your child is a priority. The psychologist wants to see that the best interest of your child is a priority above all else. Show that you have a strong relationship with your child and care about their welfare.
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Child custody evaluations can be frightening, but the evaluator is simply making sure that the best interests of the child are being met.