Child custody is often the most challenging and emotional aspect of a divorce. While you and your ex-spouse may be eager to live separate lives, you both still probably want to maintain a quality relationship with your child.
The goal of a child custody hearing is to implement arrangements that settle who your children will live with, and how much parenting time each of you will receive. According to New Jersey law, this decision is to be made with the best interest of the child in mind. But when you and your partner have two vastly different ideas of what's best for your child, deciding on a custody arrangement can be an uphill battle. In particularly contentious situations, the court may order a child custody evaluation.
What is a Child Custody Evaluation?
A child custody evaluation is a thorough analysis of you and your family. It is conducted to provide the court with information regarding what custody and visitation arrangement will be in the best interest of your child.
To complete the evaluation, a mental health professional who is trained in behavioral sciences will interview both parents, the child, extended family members, and sometimes teachers, therapists, and other closely involved adults in the child's life. The interviewer will also closely observe each parent and how they interact with their child and administer psychological evaluations to each party. The role of the evaluator is to remain neutral and objective.
Once the child custody evaluator has completed their observations, interviews, and analyses, he or she will draft a formal recommendation to the court outlining what they believe to be the best child custody agreement for the parents and children involved. It's important to note that this evaluation is not legally binding, but it will be considered heavily by your judge when it comes to making a final child custody ruling.
Things to Remember
To help you prepare for your custody evaluation, here are a few things you should keep in mind:
- Be honest with your evaluator: don't underestimate how well a trained evaluator can distinguish between genuine and insincere reactions, conversations, and interactions. Act how you normally would during observations and answer truthfully when interviewed.
- Don't berate your ex-spouse: if you're more focused on the bad things your spouse does instead of the well-being of your child, this may reflect badly on you. Remember that the primary purpose of the evaluation is to determine what is in the best interest of the children.
- Understand what your evaluator is looking for: Empathy is the ability to understand how your child is feeling and reacting accordingly. This is a trait that custody evaluators are looking for in parents.
New Jersey Family Law Attorney
Attorney Joseph D. Lento of the Lento Law Firm has extensive experience guiding and advising clients through the entire child custody evaluation process in New Jersey. To ensure your parental rights are protected and that your contributions are considered, contact Lento today at 888-535-3686.