How To Prepare For A Custody Evaluation

Most people have never had to deal with
a custody evaluation and here it is right in front of you. How do you prepare?
I’ve got some experience and I’ll share those specific tips with you today. I’ve got 5 tips for you. This comes
from my experience working as a child custody evaluator. I think some of you
viewers will know this if you’ve watched the channel a little bit. I did this for
probably 12 ,13 years where I was appointed by the court to go into a
family, where there was a divorce occurring and figure out what needed to
happen for the kids. I would make recommendations to the judge and the
judge would decide. Now, if you can avoid getting into that whole litigation
system, highly recommend it. We’ve done another video recently on some
strategies for child custody mediation. Look for that video here on the channel
and if you can go that route, it’s so much better because the evaluation process
tends to be very disruptive. It can get very lengthy. Typically, when I was doing
these child custody evaluations, we would plan on about 3 to 4 months of a
process that we would go through to evaluate both homes, both parents, all of
the kids, compile all that information back into a report that would go to the
judge, That takes a little while to do but I have heard of cases that have
taken sometimes a year or longer to resolve once it gets into a child
custody evaluation. So this is not an insignificant event and it’s something
you want to be prepared for and that you can approach in a way that’s going to
serve you and your family the best. So, I’ve got 5 tips for you today. Coming
from an old child custody evaluator here’s what I’m thinking. Tip number 1,
“get yourself into a good place”. Mentally, physically, psychologically, you need to
be in a good place. Now let’s look at different aspects of
that. Mentally – divorce, child custody proceedings, this is hard and it takes a
toll on people. So you’re going to need to take care of yourself in a lot of
ways. You want to make sure you get enough exercise, you’re getting enough
sleep, that you’re eating a balanced diet. It’s really easy during these stressful
times to let all of that stuff go. This is not going to serve you well for a lot
of the obvious reasons but also, in terms of child custody. Think about my position
as an evaluator. I got to figure out what’s going to be best for these kids. If
I’ve got a parent who is so strung out and wiped out and clobbered, can I trust
them really to show up and take care of these kids well? You got to get yourself
into a good place. Psychologically, I’ve said this so many
times and I know it might irritate some of you but just listen for a minute.
Divorce brings out the worst in people and you are not immune from this.
Probably, it’s going to do the same to you and there’s a lot of reasons why
that happens. Psychologically, you are responsible for how you show up and if
you show up is this bitter, angry divorcing person, that’s not going to
impress anyone and as an evaluator I have some real concerns about that
because people get so caught up in their own issues that they can’t see the
children’s issues. You’ve got to be in a good place.
Physically and and I mean more than just your fitness in your physical health. I
mean where do you live? Do you have accommodations for these children that
are appropriate and enriched and provide for the needs that the child has? This is
no small task because financially or economically, you might be in a position
right now where you can’t get into the kind of home that you ideally would like
to have. Yeah I get that. Also, you need to understand that if
you’re living in a mini van down by the river, probably that’s not going to
impress the evaluator. So you got to get yourself in a good place. Everything that
that means. Mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, in terms of your
living quarters. Get yourself into a good place. That is number one for a reason.
Pay some attention to that. Okay, here’s tip number 2 – “become familiar with the
rules and the laws” regarding child custody in your jurisdiction. You don’t
have to become a judge or an attorney. I’m not saying you have to know the law
to that level but you need to understand what the context is that you’re up
against. My practice is in Utah as I worked in the Utah court system. I had to
know as an evaluator, I had to know a law. It’s a rule, it’s in the judicial rules
of administration. It’s called rule 4903. Rule 4903 dictates how the courts have
to handle a child custody matter. What the judge has to consider for example
before he makes a ruling on child custody. Rule 4903 is something that
guided my efforts as an evaluator because I had to answer in my report
each of the points that are listed in that rule. This is why it’s so important
to know the rules for your particular jurisdiction. Talk to an attorney
who is familiar with family law, you probably already have one if you’re
getting into a child custody evaluation. If you don’t have one, I highly recommend
that you consult with or hire an attorney. This is something that you
don’t want to do on your own, although in most states you have the right to
represent yourself, that’s not always the best idea. It’s kind of like dentistry. I
believe that we should get the professionals involved to get the best
outcomes. Consult with an attorney. At the very least go to a legal library
somewhere and do little research on what the rules and the laws are regarding
child custody in your jurisdiction you need to know this. This is your playing
field. Now, let’s get a little more psychological.
For tip number 3, let me set this up by explaining a dynamic that happens
often in a child custody matter. This is something I actually got kind of tired
of and I know that the judges do too. They tire of this. If a judge is working
all day long and she gets another case that says, “oh my gosh, this parent is
being so evil and bad.” She’s going to roll her eyes and say, “oh, here we go again.”
The tip… Tip number 3 is – “don’t get sucked into the good parent/bad parent
fight. This is not about proving that the other parent is bad or evil. Now I know,
you’re probably thinking right now, “oh, but in my case that… Yeah, I know.
Everybody’s got a special case. But as a professional, I can tell you that
evaluators and judges get sick and tired of that fight, that dynamic. Here’s the
bottom line. Good people end up divorcing. Have you
noticed that? But one reason divorce brings out the worst in people is
because of a psychological switch that happens in people’s mind. It’s called
“cognitive dissonance:. We even have a word for it in psychology. Cognitive
dissonance is when what you believe and what you experience aren’t matching and
so you have to make an adjustment and usually it’s easier to adjust your
belief about something. Here’s where the dissonance happens. Psychologically, it’s
not okay for me to be divorced from a really awesome person. So my mind
switches it all up. Now I’m divorced from an evil, nasty, horrible, awful person. Oh
that’s okay. See that resolves the cognitive dissonance in my mind. Problem
is, now I’m treating that person as a bad, evil, horrible, negative, master
manipulator, spawn of Satan kind of a person. Alright,
I’ve actually heard those terms okay and I just have to chuckle a little bit
inside because I’m like – “oh, they got sucked into it, didn’t they?” Yeah they did.
Don’t get sucked in. Now having said that, you will. You’ll get
sucked in. You will get sucked in and the court is a terrible place to solve
family problems. I say that with all due respect to the amazing judicial system
that we have. But it’s set up in an adversarial way which means it’s me
against you and who’s right instead of what’s right and you will get sucked
into this because you’ll feel like you need to go in there and represent
yourself as the good parent and that other person is the bad one and it’s
going to irritate and annoy the professionals that you’re working with.Be aware of that. It’s much better for you to go into this, with some compassion
and kindness and empathy. Acknowledge that yeah, we got divorced. We went
separate directions. We don’t agree on things but that person really is a good
parent, is a good person and honestly, that other parent loves your children,
okay? I can say that with a whole lot of confidence knowing that there are some
exceptions and please don’t blow up my comments with “well, I’m a special case.”
Just understand that the vast majority of parents out there who are involved in
a custody litigation, love their kids. They want to do the right thing and your
ex is probably a good person who has love for your children. Okay, now
don’t argue with me on that just consider it. Okay, now we’re going to go
to tip number 4 and here it is. You know what, as I say this when I’m
thinking, “well, duh!” But I have to say it because people don’t actually consider
this when they get into a highly contested custody situation. Here it is.
Be truthful and honest and transparent and kind. There you go. Do we need to talk
about this? Do not lie. It’s going to come back and bite you. You be truthful and
honest about everything and don’t try to represent yourself as something that
you’re not. We’ll see through that too. I always did extensive psychological
testing on both parents. And by the time I get through my
psychological test battery and all the observations and all the collateral
interviews, I get a pretty good sense for who this person is. What they’re like.
Don’t try to represent yourself as this, when you’re that, okay? Just be honest. Own
who you are and where you are and what’s up for you in your life. You’ve got
weaknesses. I know that as an evaluator, as a psychologist, I know. But people are
hesitant to share those things or to acknowledge those things because – “ooh
that might put me in a bad light with the custody evaluator of the court.” Yeah,
it might but it’s better to be honest than it is to falsely represent yourself
in a way that’s going to come back and bite you later.
Now I also said transparency. Don’t try to hide stuff, we’ll find it.
I know I’m not like you know, the FBI or the CIA and I’ve got all these
investigative skills, no. I’m just a psychologist who has some insights and
intuitions that come from years of clinical practice. When you get in with a
custody evaluator, they’re going to be able to see through a lot of superficial
phony stuff. So just be transparent. It’s better to go in and say, “hey, you know,
I’ve got some issues with this. Here’s what I’m doing to work on them.” And then
be kind. Last thing I want to hear is a custody evaluators, all the bad stuff
about the other parent. I know that you’ve got some concerns and those need
to be represented in some way. I get that. Do it with kindness and share it as
a concern and not an accusation. Get some coaching if you need to so that you can
handle this thing with diplomacy. That’s going to go a whole lot farther for you
than the bitter, angry, vitriolic stuff that all of the professionals involved
they’re sick and tired of hearing anyway. So you be kind, transparent, honest and
truthful. That’s tip number 4. Now tip number 5 and I’ve saved this one till
last, it probably should go first because this
is the whole reason we’re here in the first place. Here’s tip number 5 – “you
keep the child’s interest as the primary concern”. We have to focus
on the interests of the children. As an evaluator, that’s my charge. From the
courts perspective, they have to take care of everyone’s rights to a certain
extent but the children are the primary focus for that judge, for the evaluator,
for the professionals who are involved, they want to do the right thing by the
kids. So if your focus is there too, sometimes you got to swallow hard and
say, “you know what, everything that I want is simply what I want. What’s best for my
kids”. And honestly, it might be best for your kids to spend a little more time
with their other parent, it might be. Be open to that. Let’s get out of the
anxiety and fear of – “oh, I’m going to lose time or I’ll have fewer days” or whatever.
Stop counting days and start looking at your kids and what they need. Especially
as kids get a little older, what we want as parents is not often what’s in their
best interest and if we’re counting days, we might not be paying attention to what
their needs are as much. That’s tip number 5. You stay focused on those
kids. The interest of the children is of paramount importance here. Hey, you keep
those things in mind. You’re going to do just fine, manage your own anxiety around
this and if some of the other videos here can help you with that, please get
connected. I saw standing in the street

8 thoughts on “How To Prepare For A Custody Evaluation

  1. Hello I’m currently about to enter a custody battle with my ex who’s taking my child away from me because i have decided to move on. She hasn’t had to buy anything for my daughter who is now 4 months. I or my family have bought everything for her. We had a good schedule going on with her staying with me Monday through half of Wednesday and we rotate weekends but she threatens every week to take her away from me and has recently done this, this weekend because my girlfriend liked a picture on Facebook of our daughter. With me she goes to daycare which my mother and sister both work at and is on the most stable routine when she is with me. When she’s with her mother whom we believe to be unstable she stay with some lady i haven’t met that my ex doesn’t even care for herself. My ex is only taking my daughter away because i have a new girlfriend who stays with me now. She says she’s hurting and needs my daughter in her house to “heal” but she’s my daughter too and i want her with me also. I have a great job as a truck driver locally and i take care of my daughter in ever way. Could you please give me some advice I’m desperate to get my daughter back.She always pulls the “I’m the mother what i day goes “ line and has said i can only get her ever other weekend . I’m an just not about to go for only every other weekend seeing my daughter. I need help. the house she’s living in is in my name and I’ve been paying half her bills and we’re not even together haven’t been for at least a year now


  3. This is extremely helpful, my ex is an alcoholic and we are going through this. You reinforced the stuff that matters.
    The kids always come first. Thanks

  4. Wow thank you so much for this. My case has gone south. I am in Utah also and my ex has made me out to be the most evil lowlife ever yet we were married 18 years. He stayed, I stayed yet I got the brunting of abuse yet I am viewed as horrible. All I care about are the kids. Period. I'd rather have lived unhappily married over putting the kids through this mess. Breaks my heart. I have my final appointment today yet I was never given the home visit or time with evaluator and my kids yet he was. How do I address that? This is a very distasteful experience. They say we have one of the best evaluators in the state. Not in my opinion. As there's not been equality in her services. I need prayers fir my case and my children.

  5. I do think my ex loves our son, but he has issues that can end up hurting him and I think all he needs is to work on himself in order to deliver good parenting to our son. He has no self control, but I do know he can make our son laugh and that he loves him. He’s hurt me in many ways, but I’m willing to leave the past in the past to be a better person myself.

  6. At 7:39 you just helped me understand how my daughter's father is thinking & feeling & acting for the first time ever. I'm in tears of joy Dr. Paul I can't tell you how much clarity you have just given me. I am so grateful for you & this video. I appreciate you more than you will ever know! <3

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