It is not uncommon for the custody of children to be the most contentious issue of a divorce. When parents can’t come together to create a custody agreement and parenting plan, the judge will order a custody evaluation. The judge will then consider the information within the evaluation to assign primary custody. The process is not expedient. It can take several months to complete, and you should take the following steps to prepare yourself for the road ahead.
Prepare to Meet With the Custody Evaluator
The custody evaluator is a trained psychologist. They will interview you, your spouse, and your children. They also have the discretion to interview teachers, medical care providers, other family members, neighbors, or friends. Their job is to develop a clear picture of your personalities and family dynamic. Ultimately, they are looking to assemble as many clues as possible to help them determine what is in the best interests of the child.
It is advisable to prepare for your meeting with the custody evaluator as early as possible. You will want to gather school records, contact lists, and calendars that show your engagement in the child’s life. You will also want to create a contact list of people who have direct knowledge of your relationship with your child. As you compile this list, be sure to contact each individual beforehand so that they can prepare for the call and won’t be surprised when it comes.
Proactively Address Negative Information
Be prepared to address drug abuse, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, or other negative information succinctly and directly. You will want to provide the custody evaluator with copies of police reports and other corroborating evidence. If you have made mistakes in the past, it is advisable to own them and tell the custody evaluator about any incidents, along with the exact steps you have taken to correct the issue.
Prepare Your Home for the Visit
The custody evaluator will want to visit your home before making a recommendation for primary custody. Your home doesn’t have to sparkle like a hotel room, but you do want it to be neat and tidy. You will want to repair the house so that there are no hazards that could harm the health of the child, i.e., exposed wires, broken steps, etc. It is also advisable to display family photos, stock the fridge with healthy food, and make sure there are clean linens on the beds. The bottom line is that you want your home to feel like a home.
Stay Neutral About Your Ex
Your custody evaluator will already know that there are strong feelings between you and your ex that prevent you from coming together to create an amicable parenting plan. However, you will want to set aside any feelings of animosity, anger, angst, or anxiety. It is always advisable to put your emotions in neutral. Avoid the temptation to make quips, engage in negative banter about your ex, or attempts to paint your ex as unfit to parent your child.
Practice With Your Attorney Beforehand
Your attorney will help you prepare for the meeting with the custody evaluator. Together, you can conduct a mock interview and identify specific triggers that you will want to avoid. Practicing in advance will help you relax and stay focused. This meeting is an invaluable use of your time. You don’t want to pass on the opportunity to go over everything with your attorney.
Contact Simon Law Group, PLLC at (480) 210-4981 for more information about primary custody in Arizona. It is our pleasure to help you protect your parental rights and prepare for the process.