As the old saying goes: “In failing to prepare, you are preparing
to fail.” There is no doubt that a
child custody evaluation is intrusive, disruptive and all around not a good time for you and your
family. There is no two ways about this and I am not going to try to dissuade
you from holding that opinion if in fact you do think that way.
However, there is also no two ways about the idea that the child custody
evaluation will have a dramatic effect on how the outcome of your case
is determined. If you and your child’s other parent are spiraling
towards a trial, a child custody evaluation can sometimes cause you all
to come together and settle your case. This avoids the spending a considerable
amount of money in attorney’s fees- not to mention the time and
stress that do have to be expended
Likewise, if a trial does become necessary in your case then a child custody
evaluation in which you were well prepare could have a positive impact
on how you are viewed by the judge and ultimately the decisions that he
or she arrives at. There are no guarantees in a
family law case but if you come into your child custody evaluation with a good attitude
and know some tips on how to succeed in one you will surely be better off.
Complete any paperwork that your attorney requests of you
Your attorney may have paperwork that he or she needs you to complete in
addition to any basic client questionnaires from the beginning of your
case. These forms may ask you to detail specific information that pertains
to a child custody evaluation. Your history with
CPS (if any), work hours, issues with your home that your attorney should
be aware of as well as a breakdown of how you and your opposing party
divide parenting responsibilities are just a few of the areas that may
be asked of you by your attorney.
I realize that you are already stressed and busy at this point in your
case. It’s likely that the last thing you will want to do is sit
down and fill out some paperwork while your child’s well being hangs
in the balance. However, I will caution you before you blow this off as
just another step in the process.
You have hired your attorney to represent you in your family law case,
and part of the responsibility in representing a client is understanding
the particular circumstances of your case. While your attorney can make
assumptions about you based on other cases he or she has handled, but
your individual situation is important to understand. My advice would
be to keep this in mind when you are filling any paperwork out.
Begin to collect paperwork and documents
When an evaluator begins their investigation not only will he or she be
viewing your family in light of your present circumstances, but the history
of your family will be important to them as well. If you discuss subject
matter with your evaluator that you believe can be backed up with documentary
evidence it is important to have those documents available to the evaluator.
Consider this- if you are making an assertion that your child does better
in school when he or she is with you- and you have the documents/report
cards/etc. to prove that- wouldn’t that assertion make a bigger
Keep original documents for yourself if necessary and make copies for the
child custody evaluator. Make sure to discuss them first with your attorney
before handing them over to the evaluator. Your attorney will be able
to help you review the documents and ensure that their contents are appropriate
to share with someone at this stage in your case. If there are any other
documents that may be helpful to share your attorney can help you brainstorm
in this area as well.
When we discuss hard copy/documentary evidence I am thinking about report
cards, calendars, journal entries you made to memorialize the occurrence
of individual events, photos, text messages or e-mails as well as medical
records. Again, I understand that these can be very personal pieces of
information that you may be sharing but if they are important and appropriate
to share your attorney would likely request that they be made available
for the child custody evaluator to review.
What are your goals in this evaluation? Consider this at the outset of
Often times once a
divorce or child custody case gets started, there is so much to do and to think
about that we lose track of why exactly we filed the case in the first
place or what we are trying to accomplish. Don’t let this happen
to you during the middle of a child custody evaluation.
Remember that the evaluator is concerned with the best interest of your
child and that any goals you have should be formed around this central
concept. Why should you be named a sole managing conservator? If all you
have to present to an evaluator, and therefore the judge, is that you
think your ex-spouse is being neglectful or that you don’t think
he’s being a nice guy, you will not accomplish your goal.
Sit down with your attorney and write out your goals and how you are going
to accomplish them. By doing so you will see the strength of your positions
and if any of your goals are likely to not be achievable then you can
always amend and modify them. Heading into your child custody evaluation
with a firm grasp of the issues of your case as well as what you seek
to accomplish is a winning combination.
How you should conduct yourself with the child custody evaluator- tomorrow’s
blog post subject
If you have questions as to how to act around and towards your child custody
evaluator then tomorrow’s blog post will be for you. In the meantime,
any questions about the subject of child custody evaluations can be directed
towards one of the
Law Office of Bryan Fagan’s licensed family law attorneys. A free of charge consultation is only a
phone call away.