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Handling Your Upcoming Custody Evaluation

Posted on in Child Custody

Naperville family law attorneyDuring a divorce case, if a couple cannot agree on a parenting plan, a judge will decide on parenting issues. In this scenario, it is common for a judge to seek the help of a custody evaluator. While the laws in Illinois have been recently been amended to utilize the new phrase "allocation of parental responsibilities," the more casual term "custody" is still commonly used when referring to evaluations and evaluators.

The role of a custody evaluator is to gather information on a family and their specific case, and then report back to the court with a recommendation of how parenting time and responsibilities should be allotted. This evaluation can be one of the most important elements that divorcing parents face, and while judges are not required to act on the recommendation of evaluators, courts frequently do use the information provided by the evaluator when making their final decisions. You, your soon-to-be ex-spouse, and your children may meet with an evaluator in his or her office, or a home visit may be scheduled. Though these meetings can be stressful, there are a few tips parents can follow to ensure they are prepared for the evaluation.

What Happens During an Evaluation?

During an evaluation, the court-appointed evaluator will be looking for a number of things. First, they will be looking to determine the needs of the child, and assessing which parent could better meet those needs. This is often done through a series of interviews with both parents, often separately, and their children. The evaluator may also request an interview with both parents and their children at the same time, in hopes of observing the dynamic of the family together. The evaluator will also gather information on both parents and their children, and may ask for school records, details of any police encounter, medical records, and any other information that may indicate which parent is better suited to receive a majority of parenting time. The goal is not to place blame on either parent, or prevent a parent from parenting time with their child, but rather to determine both parent’s strengths and weaknesses in hopes of creating a beneficial situation for the child.

What Should Parents Keep in Mind?

If you are nervous about your upcoming evaluation, the best first step to take is to meet with a qualified family law attorney. Bring up any concerns or worries you have about the evaluation. They have likely helped numerous clients through the process, and can help ease your mind and prepare you for the process.

Experts also recommend cooperating with the evaluator, no matter your personal feelings towards the situation. Showing you are willing to cooperate will indicate you are acting in the best interest of your children and not your own desires. On a similar note, be prepared to keep your marital problems and parenting issues separate during the evaluation. You likely still have many unresolved feelings towards your ex, your marriage, and your divorce, but keep in mind that this evaluation is focused solely on determining the best outcome for your children.

Be honest with the evaluator. Lying about your past, your history with your children, or anything else could easily come back to hurt your case when the evaluator presents his or her findings to a judge.

Plan in Advance

Prepare ahead of time for the evaluation. Write down any questions you would like to ask. Most evaluators are mental health professionals or licensed psychologists with backgrounds in child health. They understand how divorce affects children, and are great resources for parents about to become co-parents. They can provide helpful information on reading material, outside help, and suggest parent education classes. If you are worried about the qualifications of the evaluator, ask them. You should feel comfortable with them, and should not be afraid to ask them about their background. It may also be helpful to organize important documents like health records and school information so you do not need to track it down during the evaluation.

At the end of the day, keep in mind that the overall goal of the evaluation is simply to determine which parenting arrangement is in the best interest of the children involved. If you have an upcoming evaluation, contact an experienced Naperville divorce attorney to help you prepare. At the Pesce Law Offices, P.C., our team has handled a wide variety of divorce and family law cases and is available to assist you immediately. Call 630-352-2240 today to learn more about our services, and to schedule a consultation with a member of our team to review your case.

Sources:

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?ActID=2086&ChapterID=59&SeqStart=8300000&SeqEnd=10000000

https://www.afccnet.org/resource-center/resources-for-families/pamphlet-information/categoryid/1/productid/9

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