Child Custody Evaluations
Divorce, no matter the circumstances or feelings surrounding it, is painful for everyone involved. With a divorce proceeding, child custody evaluations are often one of the first and hardest topics addressed with all parties. In order to determine custody, the courts require an evaluation with the parents and child(ren) involved. This will help the court determine the best living situations for both child and parent. What occurs in a child custody evaluation has the potential to make or break a child’s overall health and well-being. For this reason, this decision is the most important when a divorce takes place in which children are involved.
We suggest choosing a psychologist who is is able to weigh the deficits of the parents attributes against the needs of the child(ren) in question.
Question: What is a Child Custody Evaluation?
Child custody evaluations are:
- Holistic assessments focused on the “best interests” of the child(ren).
- These assessments often focus on who offers the best schools, is best able to provide financially and emotionally and whose relationship is best.
- Meant to assist families in making a positive adjustment to divorce, or other significant life changes.
- Often this includes adjustments in living situations, possibly schools and even friends and familial changes.
- Gives children and parents the opportunity to share their feelings with a licensed psychologist.
- Children often feel overlooked when it comes to their feelings when a divorce occurs. Allowing children to express how they feel with a professional can often help with healing.
- A way to consider broadly the child’s developmental level, as well as their unique individual needs.
- When a divorce occurs, children may move backwards developmentally due to the mix up of their normal routines. A psychologist can help determine if that is happening and how to best support children if it does occur.
- A method for equally weighing the strengths and limitations of both parents.
- Psychologists are also very helpful when evaluating the strengths and limits of each parent to help determine the correct placement for custody of the child(ren).
- Considerations of the rights of both parents, be they male or female, same-sex or traditional relationship.
- Used to provide judges with the information they need to make the final child custody decision.
Question: What happens in a Child Custody Evaluation.
Child custody evaluations take place in all circumstances, and family types. They are unique to each individual situation. However, all should include the following:
- In-person interviews with parents and child(ren).
- Psychological testing with parents and child(ren), as needed.
- Information gathering (various documents; interviews with relevant parties; etc.)
Ironically, prepping for this evaluation can bring about high levels of anxiety and stress. This can often lead to poor performance in the evaluation. In order to best prepare for the situation parents should consider the following suggestions to avoid anxiety and reduce the stress of the situation.
- Cooperate with your evaluator regardless of whether or not you agree with the reasoning for the evaluation. Consider that the evaluator can get the wrong impression if you fight them at every turn.
- Initially, treat the evaluation like an interview. Dress to impress and be professional, honest and confident.
- Be prepared and organize beforehand if possible. Remember, there is a good chance your evaluator will request case documents.
- Be sure to hold your child’s best interest above all else. Show the evaluator that your child is your top priority.
- Lastly, speak with your attorney to compile a list of referral questions. Referral questions can ensure that concerns are addressed properly.