Child Custody Evaluations: What to Know and How to Prepare

child custody evaluationCreating a custody arrangement is a key part of the divorce process for any divorcing couple that has children. Unless there is a compelling reason for only one parent to continue to be in the children’s lives, such as their other parent’s incarceration or history of domestic abuse, the court tries its best to develop custody arrangements that allow children to spend quality time with both of their parents after the parents’ divorce. Parents are the most important role models in their children’s lives, and a strong parent-child relationship leads to benefits later in life, such as higher self esteem, better communication skills, and a lower chance of becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol. Under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, the court plays a vital role in determining a family’s custody arrangement.

Although it is ideal to develop a rudimentary custody plan with your spouse before taking your case to court, this option is not always feasible. When parents cannot work together to create a workable custody plan, the court might require the family to undergo a custody evaluation. If your family goes this route, the family attorneys at our firm can help you prepare your custody evaluation.

What is a Custody Evaluation?

A custody evaluation is a series of individual interviews between each member of a family and a court-ordered neutral evaluator. This evaluator could be a social worker or a psychologist. In some cases, the evaluator may administer psychological tests to one or more family member to help collect data that can be useful in determining a custody arrangement that works for the whole family.

A custody evaluation is meant to determine the following:

  • Relationships within the family;
  • Each member’s thoughts and opinions about the divorce;
  • Each child’s school and activity schedule;
  • Home life in both the family home and new living arrangements; and
  • Each party’s future goals and for the parents, goals for the divorce settlement.

Once the evaluation is complete, the evaluator gives a written report of his or her findings to the judge to aid in the court’s decision about the family’s custody arrangement.

How to Prepare for a Custody Evaluation

Be honest with yourself and the evaluator. Although this is a stressful time, any hint of aggression toward the evaluator or bitterness toward your spouse can negatively affect your evaluation’s outcome. Be reasonable, open, and honest with your answers. You are going to the evaluation for your children’s sake. An evaluator knows when you are simply telling him or her what you think he or she wants to hear – avoid this. Rather, allow yourself to give the most truthful, accurate responses to all of the evaluator’s questions.

Divorce Attorneys Can Help

Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C. has proudly served families in the DuPage County area since 1995. If you are working through this difficult process, call our firm at (877) 889-4515 to discuss your case with one of our firm’s experienced Oak Brook family attorneys. We are here to advocate for you and your children.

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