10 Child Custody Evaluation Tips for Single Parents

How to ace your child custody evaluation

The custody evaluation process is nerve-wracking for any parent. Make sure you are thoroughly prepared with these custody evaluation tips:

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    Woman speaking with her lawyer about a child custody evaluation.
    Speak with your lawyer about your child custody evaluation. Photo © Eric Audras/Getty Images
    Closely heed your lawyer's advice. He or she will explain the evaluation process to you and will give you specific instructions to follow. Make sure you follow his or her guidance.
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    The evaluator is an independent expert. He or she is not your friend, counselor, or advocate, even if you were the person who requested the evaluation. Therefore, never assume that the evaluator is "on your side." His or her job is to objectively assess what is best for your child/ren.
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    Be completely honest. Never, under any circumstances, lie to the evaluator. This professional is trained to pick up on the behaviors associated with lying. If he or she believes that you are not being truthful, it will reflect very poorly on the final outcome for you.
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    At all costs, keep every single appointment with the evaluator, and arrive early or on time. In addition, be prepared with a list of questions you have. You may also find it helpful to jot down any additional questions during the interview. This can help you stay focused during the conversation and let go of the worry that you'll forget to ask something.
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    Realize that first impressions are key. Make sure your entire home is clean and orderly. It might seem petty, but it is actually important for you to consider the impression one might have of your overall parenting skills by just looking in your refrigerator or laundry room. Also, have your kids' school records and medical records easily accessible and organized, should the evaluator wish to refer to them during your home visit.

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    You will have an opportunity to express any concerns you have regarding the other parent. Be sure that you are not "bad mouthing" him or her in any way. Instead, make an effort to objectively share the strengths and weaknesses you observe. In addition, do not make any allegations against the other parent that cannot be supported with specific evidence.
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    Don't mix marital concerns with parenting concerns. Being a poor spouse doesn't make a person a bad parent. Using your interview with the evaluator to recount your ex's poor choices and insensitivity in relation to your marriage will not help you gain custody of your child/ren. It could even create an impression that you would be reluctant to support their interaction with the other parent.
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    Be cooperative and answer all of the questions asked by the evaluator. Also, make sure that you follow through on anything and everything that the evaluator asks of you prior to your next meeting. Most likely, you will need to provide the contact information for several people who know you and your family very well, and you will need to sign releases to permit the evaluator to speak with these individuals.
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    Be prepared to genuinely discuss what is in the best interests of your children. It may be helpful to role play this experience with a friend who can play "the devil's advocate" and point out areas where your phrasing points to your best interests, and not necessarily your children's.

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    Lastly, be yourself! Interact warmly with your children. Also, have some of your kids's favorite activities, such as board games and coloring books, handy for them during the custody evaluation home visit. Seeing the kids thriving in your home setting, as opposed to being glued to the TV or video game system, will leave the evaluator with a real sense of the warm atmosphere you've worked so hard to create.