While custody evaluations performed by child psychologists are somewhat common in contested custody cases, few litigants understand much more than the evaluator makes a report to the court about what custody and parenting time is in the children’s best interests. In this blog, the three (3) major components of a custody evaluation are discussed to help you reduce the stress you may have in undergoing the process, followed by some pointers.
Forensic examination. One major component of a custody evaluation is a forensic interview. During this time, the evaluator may inquire into your background from childhood to the present. In addition, the evaluator may watch your interaction with your children, as well as significant others who live in your household. These are things you cannot “fake” and the important point is to be yourself. Even if your children are cold or hostile toward you, this may reflect to the evaluator they are being alienated by the other parent. The moral of the story is to be yourself and honestly answer the evaluator. They are trained to detect someone trying to present in a favorable way. Don’t lose your credibility.
Psychological testing. Ordinarily, the psychologist will administer a battery of tests. They are not like medical tests, such as x-rays. They measure mental health. Further, the tests are weighted so that if you try to answer to “beat” the test, the scoring will be invalid. Again, the point is to answer honestly. Each test is something you will know how to do and be able to complete. The most likely test is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory – 2 which is the most common test that measures personality and psychopathology. In essence, it determines your traits—who you are over time and states—how you are now, such as happy or sad. Ultimately, these tests may show you are anxious, or you have the potential for mental illness. This is exactly the information a custody evaluator needs to make a recommendation to the court for custody and parenting time in the children’s best interests. Again, there is little a litigant can do to impact this process. So again, be yourself. Be truthful in your answers.
Collateral interview/evidence. Interviews and testing aside, most people leave a life trail that can contradict, balance, or otherwise provide very useful information to a custody evaluator. So, if there is a dispute about whether the child acts out in school after a given parent’s parenting time, then the evaluator may contact the teacher. It is important to provide the evaluator with the contact information of individuals who have key information that speaks to the children’s best interests. The best sources are neutral individuals, not family and friends. These individuals may range from police officers to teachers and doctors. In addition, the custody evaluator may also rely on a variety of documents, such as medical and school records. Just as with individuals who are collateral contacts, you must identify the collateral information to the evaluator. He or she cannot contact or gather collateral information that is unknown. This is the place to make your case as it is the part of the process you can control.
Thus, these are the major components of a custody evaluation. While it should go unsaid, you should treat the custody evaluation as a serious matter, be on time and dress for the occasion to demonstrate the value you place on the process. Finally, you may be observed in the waiting room so take care to act properly at that time. Your custody hopes and objectives may depend on it. This blog is written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle complex custody matters of all types throughout the State. This blog is written as a general educational background. It is not legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.