If you are considering filing for divorce, or are already a party to divorce, and there are minor children, your primary concern will likely be custody of your minor children. In New Jersey, the court may appoint a custody evaluator to review your situation and make recommendations to the judge. In most instances, the judge will follow the evaluator’s recommendations. Therefore, it is critical that you properly prepare for an evaluation, and that you don’t take any actions that will negatively affect your custody goals.
What to Do When You are Involved in a Custody Evaluation
The most important thing to do during a custody evaluation is to be honest. The evaluator will likely cross-reference statements you make with other parties. If it appears that you are misrepresenting the situation, or simply making statements that are either untrue or cannot be corroborated, it will have a negative impact on your efforts to get meaningful custody with your children. If the evaluator requires that you take a psychological test, don’t try to guess what answers they want—just answer as honestly as you can.
Make certain that you understand what is happening at all times. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you are confused. Also be careful to pay close attention to anything the evaluator says or asks. If you don’t know the answer, or need time to think about, simply say that, or ask for clarification. If you need additional time to respond, or if the evaluator asks for documentation that you don’t have with you, get back to the evaluator as soon as possible, so they sense that you take the process seriously.
The evaluator may ask you for references. You should notify anyone that you list in advance, so that they know they may be contacted.
First impressions are still extremely important, especially with a custody evaluator. Be prompt in your arrival, and dress respectfully.
And finally, you should plan to meet with your attorney prior to the evaluation so that he or she can review with you the issues in the case, and can prepare you for the process and procedures.
Things to Avoid During a Custody Evaluation
Don’t use the evaluation as an opportunity to bad-mouth your spouse or partner. Only make negative statements if the evaluator asks for specific examples of problems. Don’t worry about showing your emotions—the evaluators know that custody matters are highly emotional.
Once your evaluation is over, be patient. Don’t call or stop in to see the evaluator to determine whether the report is done.