If a custody evaluation is in your future, you're likely anxious, afraid, and have many questions about the road ahead. The process can be stressful and time-consuming, but it's important to remember you're not alone — millions of parents go through this every year. Here's what you need to know to prepare.
What Is a Custody Evaluation?
How to Prepare for a Custody Evaluation
Are you getting ready to navigate the custody evaluation process? Here are eight custody evaluation tips to help you prepare for your home visit and what comes next.
#1: Hire a Custody Attorney
A lawyer will help you understand the custody evaluation process and protect your rights. They'll also make sure you best present yourself to the evaluator.
#2: Be Honest and Cooperative with the Evaluator
The evaluator must document a complete picture of your parenting skills, relationship with your child and any mental health concerns. If you’re honest and cooperative, it will make the process go more smoothly. Be honest regarding any prior diagnoses or medication history, and substance abuse issues. Being dishonest to the evaluator can be a major red flag!
#3: Gather Evidence to Support Your Case
Want to make sure the evaluator gets a complete picture of your child and family dynamic? Gather school reports, medical records, and letters from friends and family members who can attest to your parenting skills. Provide documentation when requested by the evaluator of the custody or divorce proceedings, any DSS/ CPS involvement or other requested documentation.
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#4: Be Prepared to Answer Questions about Your Child's Well-Being
Your evaluator will want to know about your child's physical and emotional health, academic progress, and relationship with you and their other parent.
#5: Dress Appropriately and Arrive on Time for Your Appointments
Make an excellent first impression and put your best foot forward. The evaluator will form an image of you based on your appearance and demeanor.
#6: Be Respectful of the Professional Who Conducts the Custody Psychological Evaluation
Remember, the evaluator is doing their job to help both you and your child. Treat him/her with respect, even if you may disagree with them.
#7: Be Prepared to Discuss Your Mental Health History
If you have a history of mental illness, the evaluator will want to know how it affects your parenting skills. Be honest and open about your mental health history, and be prepared to discuss how you currently manage your mental health, including any therapeutic involvement or medications prescribed.
#8: Be Prepared to Take a Drug Test
Depending on your history, the evaluator (or the court) m request a drug test as part of your custody evaluation process. If you are concerned about drug use, be honest with the evaluator and be prepared to take a drug test.
What Happens after a Custody Evaluation?
After you complete a custody evaluation, the evaluator will submit a report to the court. The information will include the evaluator's findings and recommendations regarding custody, visitation, and other parenting arrangements. It will also include the evaluator’s concerns regarding parental fitness. The court will then review the report and make a custody decision.
The evaluator's recommendations do not bind the court, but they often carry a lot of weight.
A custody evaluation is just one part of the decision-making process. The parents will be able to review the evaluator's report and provide their input at trial. The court will also consider other factors, the parents' history, the child's wishes, and ultimately make a decision in the child's best interests.
Contact the Custody Lawyers at Spidell Family Law Today
It’s essential to prepare for success and understand the process when facing a custody evaluation in North Carolina. You can increase your chances of getting the outcome you want in court for your child by following the tips outlined in this article.
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