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10 Ways to Prepare For a Child Custody Evaluation

Custody Evaluation Tips for Single Parents

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The custody evaluation process is nerve-wracking for any parent. Make sure you are thoroughly prepared with these custody evaluation tips:

1. Listen to Your Lawyer

Boy (9-11) with father and female teacher, sitting at desk in classroom
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Closely heed your lawyer's advice. He or she will explain the evaluation process to you and will give you specific instructions to follow. Make sure you follow his or her guidance.

2. Be Aware of the Evaluator's Role

The evaluator is an independent expert. He or she is not your friend, counselor, or advocate, even if you were the person who requested the evaluation. Therefore, never assume that the evaluator is "on your side." His or her job is to objectively assess what is best for your child/ren.

3. Be Honest

Be completely honest. Never, under any circumstances, lie to the evaluator. This professional is trained to pick up on the behaviors associated with lying. If he or she believes that you are not being truthful, it will reflect very poorly on the final outcome for you.

4. Be Prepared For Your Meeting

At all costs, keep every single appointment with the evaluator, and arrive early or on time. In addition, be prepared with a list of questions you have. You may also find it helpful to jot down any additional questions during the interview. This can help you stay focused during the conversation and let go of the worry that you'll forget to ask something.

5. Make a Good Impression

Realize that first impressions are key. Make sure your entire home is clean and orderly. It might seem petty, but it is actually important for you to consider the impression one might have of your overall parenting skills by just looking in your refrigerator or laundry room. Also, have your kids' school and health records easily accessible and organized, should the evaluator wish to refer to them during your home visit.

6. Have a Positive Attitude

You will have an opportunity to express any concerns you have regarding the other parent. Be sure that you are not "bad mouthing" him or her in any way. Instead, make an effort to objectively share the strengths and weaknesses you observe. In addition, do not make any allegations against the other parent that cannot be supported with specific evidence.

7. Stick to Parenting Issues

Don't mix marital concerns with parenting concerns. Being a poor spouse doesn't make a person a bad parent. Using your interview with the evaluator to recount your ex's poor choices and insensitivity in relation to your marriage will not help you gain custody of your child/ren. It could even create an impression that you would be reluctant to support their interaction with the other parent.

8. Cooperate

Be cooperative and answer all of the questions asked by the evaluator. Also, make sure that you follow through on anything and everything that the evaluator asks of you prior to your next meeting. Most likely, you will need to provide the contact information for several people who know you and your family very well, and you will need to sign releases to permit the evaluator to speak with these individuals.

9. Focus on What is in the Best Interests of Your Children

Be prepared to genuinely discuss what is in the best interests of your children. It may be helpful to role play this experience with a friend who can play "the devil's advocate" and point out areas where your phrasing points to your best interests, and not necessarily your children's.

10. Be Yourself

Lastly, be yourself! Interact warmly with your children. Also, have some games and books handy for them during the custody evaluation home visit. Seeing the kids thriving in your home setting, as opposed to being glued to the TV or video game system, will leave the evaluator with a real sense of the warm atmosphere you've worked so hard to create.

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