Preparing for a child custody evaluationIn cases of child custody, the meeting with the evaluator is extremely important. Here are several suggestions on how to prepare.

Preparing for the Meeting

Even though you should already know this and would probably never think of doing otherwise, your divorce attorney may remind you that both you and the children should present a creditable appearance. First impressions are crucial.

Your Themes

You will surely have strong feelings for why your children should remain with you. Your attorney will work with you in order to help you prepare to make your case to the evaluator by recommending that you build upon perhaps three major reasons and support them effectively. 

Keep it Positive

Emphasize your themes by pointing out why you are the ideal person to have custody of your children. Dwell on the qualities that you possess that make you an excellent parent, not the faults of your spouse that make him/her a poor one. 

Stay Calm

It is critically important to stay rational, calm and to keep to the point. Keep your temper and your self-control. Don’t digress, indulge in unnecessary dramatics or allow yourself to be drawn into extended explanations of why the other spouse is a horrible person and/or dreadful parent. If your spouse has genuinely awful qualities, the evaluator will probably find them out at some point in the evaluation.

Keep Your Objectivity

You may have genuine cause to report violence, abuse, neglect/abandonment or other serious issues. If that is the case, your lawyer will recommend that you make your statements as objectively as you are able. Don’t exaggerate, and if you can, avoid allowing these issues to pile up until they dominate your entire statement. The goal is to show yourself in the most positive light and to do it without attacking your spouse.

Your attorney and the evaluator both know that there are times when the negatives cannot be minimized. In cases in which substance abuse, criminal activity, mental impairment or illness, anger management problems and other serious issues are present, you may have a difficult time phrasing these in terms that could even remotely be called positive. In such a case, remember that there will be evidence from outside sources (police reports, testimony from other witnesses, etc.) that will document these problems. Simpler faults such as selfishness, carelessness or irresponsibility are not as difficult to deal with or to present objectively.

The Ultimate Goal

Bear in mind that this is all about your children. In presenting your case, emphasize why you are the best person to look after them by telling the evaluator of your consistent efforts to raise the children in a healthful and supportive environment, and describe how you worked to ensure domestic comfort and happiness. Point out your good qualities. Again, don’t elaborate on your spouse’s faults. If you must mention them, do so as kindly as you can.

H. Van Smith
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Trusted Virginia Attorney Serving Richmond to Williamsburg