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How to Prepare for a Child Custody Evaluation

Naperville Divorce Lawyer

DuPage County child custody lawyer

For any divorcing couple who has children, determining the children's custody arrangement after the divorce is a key component of the process and, generally, for parents the most emotionally-charged one. The court uses a variety of factors to determine an appropriate custody arrangement for a divorcing couple's children and may involve an outside professional to determine the custody arrangement that is in the children's best interest. This outside professional may be a social worker, attorney (i.e., Guardian Ad Litem) or a child psychologist (i.e., evaluator).

The thought of bringing this outside individual into your home and discussing your personal failures and triumphs as a parent with him or her can be intimidating. You do not want to misrepresent yourself, but you also do not want to inadvertently say or do anything that could imply that you are a less fit parent than your spouse. Before undergoing a child custody evaluation, speak with your own child custody attorney about what you can expect and how to best handle the process.

Understand What a Child Custody Evaluation Entails

Probably the best way for you to prepare for your child custody evaluation is to familiarize yourself with the process. Your attorney can discuss this process with you in depth, but, basically, a child custody evaluation consists of the following:

  • An evaluator's review of your court file;
  • Up to three interviews with each spouse;
  • Up to two interviews with each of the children involved;
  • The evaluator spending time with each child and parent together; and
  • Interviews with other parties who can provide insight into your family life and dynamics, such as your child's teacher or a neighbor.

Any interviews that occur in your home will be planned; so do not worry about having an evaluator drop in unannounced. A child custody evaluator's job is not to "catch you" doing anything wrong – it is to determine the type of custody arrangement is safest and most nurturing for your child.

A child custody evaluation could involve a mental health evaluation for you, your spouse, your child, or even all parties involved. This is done simply to ascertain each party's thoughts and feelings about the divorce, their role within the family, and what is to come with the divorce.

Preparing Yourself for a Child Custody Evaluation

Although the point of a child custody evaluation is to watch you interact naturally with your child and understand your true motives, philosophies, and parenting ability rather than a rehearsed version of your life as a parent, there are ways you can prepare yourself for the evaluation to make sure you are represented accurately. Some tips for preparing for your child custody evaluation include:

  • Practice answering some of the questions you might face with your attorney. The questions might be about your income, the amount of hours you work each week, and how involved you are in your child's academic and extracurricular activities. Become comfortable answering these questions clearly and concisely;
  • If you are prone to high-strung emotions, practice self-calming techniques like focused breathing to help you calm yourself before the evaluation. Even a well-prepared individual can become suddenly nervous when actually facing the interview with an evaluator and end up saying something that is inaccurate or does not convey the complete story;
  • If the interview will happen in your home, tidy up. Presenting a neat, organized home to the evaluator is key to making a good impression on him or her;
  • Have your child's records, such as his or her report cards and medical records, readily available. You might need to discuss these with the evaluator; so it is best to have them handy for the interview; and
  • Maintain a positive, focused attitude. Do not speak badly of your former spouse during the interview – instead, present a positive view of yourself as a parent. Let your spouse speak for him- or herself; your job is simply to discuss your parenting fitness.

Naperville Family Law Firm

If you are considering filing for divorce or if you are already embroiled in the process, you need the guidance of an experienced DuPage County family law attorney to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible. For guidance and representation tailored to your specific needs in an Illinois divorce, contact our team at Pesce Law Group, P.C. to schedule your legal consultation with our firm.

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