Preparing for a Child Custody Evaluation
Child custody struggles are often high stakes, emotional legal proceedings, and judges understand this. While judges see these sorts of disputes often, they are generalists and not necessarily experts on family dynamics and child development. Consequently, they may choose to order something known as a 604(b) evaluation, named for the portion of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act that allows it. These 604(b) evaluations involve an expert, usually someone like a psychologist or social worker, sitting down with the family members and conducting interviews to make a recommendation about child custody.
How Evaluations Work
These child custody evaluations are done by a neutral third party whose goal is to offer an opinion on the best custody structure for the children. The examiner will almost certainly conduct at least one interview with the child as well as with each parent, although there is the potential for the process to be considerably longer. The examiner may also choose to interview other adults that the child or family interacts with to get a fuller picture of the family dynamics. Finally, the examiner may also look over documents that are important to the custody determination.
Importantly, the evaluator's recommendation is just that, a recommendation. The evaluator is not a judge, and does not have the authority to make binding legal decisions. However, the recommendation may carry significant weight with the judge because it is being made by a neutral expert. Consequently, parents who are about to go through a child custody evaluation should be sure to understand how to have the best evaluation that they can.
Tips for a Good Evaluation
There are many different things parents can do to involve the quality of their evaluation. One of the most important is to make a good first impression on the evaluator: be ready and on time for the interview, be polite, and be prepared with any necessary documents. Another important tip for a good evaluation is to be honest. The evaluation can be quite thorough, so dishonesty or exaggeration stands a good chance of being uncovered. This can damage a parent's credibility with the evaluator, and call other statements of theirs into question.
Parents should also take the time to prepare their children for the evaluator. Although parents should not coach the child or tell them what to say, they should make sure the child knows that the evaluator is coming, and the basic purpose of the visit.
Child custody evaluations can be important event that make a major difference in the outcome of a child custody dispute. If you are currently involved in a dispute or are considering divorce and want more information, contact a skilled DuPage County divorce attorney today to learn more about the process.