Preparing for a Child Custody Evaluation

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 impact, then?

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 your case.

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.


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