[O]ne of the most emotional and unstable aspects of divorce involves determining where the children will be spent with each parent before the divorce is finalized. Even in the best of circumstances this decision can illicit strong feelings and be the source of a major family conflict, possibly carrying over into the divorce proceedings. Ideally, the parents make these tough decisions on their own, or with their attorneys or mediator. Where an agreement can’t be reached, or where there are allegations of physical abuse, child sexual abuse, neglect, parental unfitness, or substance abuse, this decision may fall to the courts. If serious allegations or concerns have been raised, the entire family may be referred for a child custody evaluation. Typically made by the courts, these referrals can reveal more detailed information about the family issues and then determine the best living arrangement for the children.
A court-appointed child custody evaluator should act as an independent expert and not as a parental advocate. The evaluator should conduct a comprehensive interview that provides the court with an accurate, balanced picture of the family situation. This is tremendously stressful for all family members. Most parents are understandably concerned about undergoing a child custody evaluation.
They worry about everything from what to wear to how to present themselves to wondering if the other parent will paint the other one in a negative light. And all of that highlights the real fear. In most cases, it’s a first time for each parent, so neither one knows what to expect, or how to prepare for this stressful time.
The Fate of Winning Custody May Rest on your Child Custody Evaluation
In my state of Texas, Child custody evaluations are mandatory and judges almost always go with the recommendation of the social worker or evaluator. Therefore this evaluation is critical, important and even stressful. Read How to Prepare for a Court Appointed Social Study.
In an effort to help parents cope with the uncertainty of child custody evaluations, next time, we will offer some preparation tips.
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