Dannenbaum Law Firm, PLLC

Custody evaluations: How to act when being observed

As mentioned, the evaluator will be observing you like a hawk throughout the evaluation.

The evaluator will observe you during the office visits. The greatest source of observational information occurs when you are being observed informally in the waiting room with your kids.

Dress appropriately. Make sure your child is dressed appropriately. Make sure both of you are well groomed and put together. Try to act naturally. Use open body language.

The evaluator will observe you in structured setting such as providing you and your child with a task to accomplish. Here, you need to strike a fine balance between letting the child work on accomplishing the task while you provide guidance and assistance. Empower and encourage your child and lend a helping hand while letting the child complete the task. Be actively involved in the project without taking over. Talk to your child as you play and have fun. Relate to your child on his/her level. Get down on the floor. Don't expect too much of them ad don't be critical of them. Show affection towards your child. Follow the evaluator's instructions.

This puts the onus on you to provide the stimulation and structure during the observation. Act naturally. Demonstrate a proper mixture of discipline and affection.

The evaluator will want to meet with you and the children in his or her office. Bring homework, games, and food (if appropriate). Your children's own toys will put him or her at ease. Calm your child's nervousness but do not coach him or her on what to say. Most evaluators will comment on how you and your child acted and related with one another in the waiting room. This puts the onus on you to provide the stimulation and structure during the observation. Act naturally. Demonstrate a proper mixture of discipline and affection.

The evaluator will come to your home for a visit. This visit may be announced or unannounced. Make sure the house is in proper order. Make sure there is plenty of healthy food in the refrigerator and cupboard. Make sure the house is clean and hire a maid if needed. Make sure the children's areas, such as bedroom and play areas are tidy and child oriented. Emphasize play rather than screen time.

Present yourself as a fair and reasonable person. Speak calmly and evenly. Use good body language such as open palms when talking, open body language so show confidence and transparency. Sit with your legs slightly open to show openness and interest in the process. Do not sit with your arms crossed or with a closed body language. Be an active participant in your speech and body language. Do not lose your temper, become angry or emotional. Do not make false or exaggerated allegations against the other parent. If you have concerns about the other parent, state them in a factual and honest manner, making sure that the focus is on how the other parent's actions affect the child, rather than on how he or she affects you.

Everything that you talk about should be couched as in the "best interests of the child." Do not talk about that you want the children because...." Rather, state that it is in the best interests of the child that you have primary custody because...." Then state in detail all the reasons, facts, circumstances that lead you to conclude that the child's best interests would be better served with you.

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