Most divorcing parents go into child custody negotiations hoping to work out a custody and visitation schedule together, along with their attorneys, that they can both be satisfied with and that -- most importantly -- is best for their kids.
However, that's not always possible. Residual anger, distrust and differences in parenting styles can leave parents at an impasse. They have to ask a judge to decide on the optimal custody arrangement for the kids. Often this involves a child custody evaluation.
Anything with the word "evaluation" in it can reasonably cause stress. Just what will be evaluated? Who will be doing it? What will the person making the evaluation consider? By knowing what it involves, you may be able to put your mind at ease a bit and help the evaluator and the court decide on an arrangement in which your children can thrive.
Custody evaluations are generally done by mental health professionals who then make their recommendations to the judge. Evaluators conduct multiple interviews with the children involved and with each parent separately. They will also talk with other adults who know the children and parents, such as teachers, doctors and other family members.
Evaluators watch each parent interact with their child. This may be done at home or in the evaluator's office. They may also do psychological tests on the parents and children.
Custody evaluators are given access to court records from the divorce and other legal proceedings that could be relevant to the case. At the end of the evaluation, these professionals submit a detailed report and recommendation to the judge on how they believe custody should be decided.
If a custody evaluation is required in your case, it's essential to put your best foot forward, but don't misrepresent yourself or your relationship with your children. Treat the evaluation as you would a job interview. Dress appropriately and be on time for appointments. Find out what information and documentation you need to provide the evaluator and have it ready and organized.
Be courteous and cooperative. This is crucial no matter how unfair you feel it is that you have to go through this process. Let the evaluator know that your priority, like his or hers, is what's best for your child. Your North Carolina family law attorney can help you prepare yourself and your children for the custody evaluation process.