A custody evaluation in Charlotte is conducted by a court-appointed professional who is usually a child psychologist. The Court will appoint this “expert witness” if both parties consent or after a motion and hearing wherein the requesting party shows the need for an evaluation and the assistance the report will provide the court.
The expert will assess your family situation and then make recommendations to the court about a parenting and custodial arrangement that will meet your children’s needs. A forensic custody evaluation will include psychological testing and interviews with the parents and children as well as collaterals (relatives, teachers, doctors, neighbors) and review of relevant documents and court pleadings. Since judges give a lot of weight to the recommendations of the custody evaluator, it’s important to prepare yourself properly for this process. Here are some guidelines that will help you get ready for your custody evaluation:
- Be sure of the cost. Make sure you understand the contract terms.
- Arrive on time at your custody evaluation interview.
- Dress neatly and conservatively. Clean clothes are a must.
- Be honest about what you tell the custody evaluator since he or she will likely check out your statements with other sources. Understand that if the custody evaluator chooses to use psychological testing as part of the evaluation, you must answer honestly. The tests used are designed to detect defensiveness and lies, and unless you are an expert in psychological testing, you are unlikely to fool them.
- Be sincere. The custody evaluator can usually detect exaggerations, over embellishment and insincerity. It’s permissible to be nervous when you are being interviewed by the custody evaluator. It’s okay to cry and/or show emotion during your interview with the custody evaluator – many people do when they talk about their children or their marriage.
- Answer the custody evaluator’s questions directly and to the point. It’s best to stick to the issues that you are being asked about. Make sure you pay attention to what the custody evaluator is asking so as to not get side-tracked.
- Take your time when answering a question. If you do not understand what the custody evaluator has asked you, feel free to ask him or her to explain or clarify. If the custody evaluator asks you provide additional information, do your best to provide it as promptly as possible. If you run into a problem in getting this information, let the custody evaluator know promptly.
- Throughout the evaluation process, try to make every attempt to present yourself as being reasonable and place the concerns of your children first and foremost.
- Custody evaluators understand that parents find it stressful during this process and they take this into account when assessing family members. If you are feeling stressed and anxious, it is all right to acknowledge it and allow the custody evaluator to help calm some of your concerns.
- Do not try to co-opt friends, neighbors and other individuals to your side by telling lurid tales of the other party; their interactions with the evaluator are more valuable if based on their own observations; in addition, this can backfire.
- When you are asked to provide names of people to contact on your behalf, it is a good idea to inform these people in advance that they may be contacted. This will give them a heads up on being able to speak on your behalf.
- If the custody evaluator plans to observe you with your children, make sure you are attentive to their needs and focus on their interests and not your own.
- Do not run down your spouse/partner unless the custody evaluator asks you to comment on what you perceive to be the problems between you.
- Do not make threatening comments about your spouse/partner or anyone else to the custody evaluator.
- Do not pester the custody evaluator with phone calls. If you need clarification on an issue or if you are responding to a call, that’s fine.
- Do not drop by the evaluator’s office without an appointment. This is an absolute “no-no”.
- Do not call the custody evaluator to see if the report is completed. Leave this up to your attorney.
- Do not prep your children to say negative things about the other parent. If you do, there’s a good chance it will backfire on you since the custody evaluator has ways of telling if this has occurred.
- Do not stop payment on the expert’s check after receiving a “bad” preliminary report. The final report will be even worse.
There are many things to consider when preparing for a custody evaluation in Charlotte. Understanding the steps and warnings can help ensure your child’s needs are met. If you have questions about child custody evaluations, don’t hesitate to contact the family law attorneys at Weaver, Bennett, & Bland. Our experienced attorneys can help you with your child custody case in Charlotte and the surrounding areas.