Whether from movies or real life, many people are generally familiar with the concept of a psychological evaluation in custody-related matters. A professional, typically a forensic psychologist who specializes in family-related issues, meets with each parent to determine his or her “fitness” to take primary responsibility for meeting the needs of the couple’s children, and then a judge issues a ruling based on the results of the parents’ respective psychological evaluations.
A psychological evaluation does not happen in all cases. In fact, in most cases, divorcing parents are able to negotiate custody and visitation terms that meet their respective needs while also serving the best interests of their children.
When parents can agree to terms without court intervention, then these child custody evaluations are unnecessary. But, if efforts and negotiation and mediation prove unsuccessful, then the court may order one or both parents to undergo an evaluation in order to assist in structuring a parenting plan that protects the best interests of the children involved.
What to Expect During a Child Custody Evaluation
If you must undergo a child custody evaluation as part of your divorce, it is important that you do as much as possible to prepare in advance. Judges tend to give substantial weight to evaluators’ conclusions; and, the more you can do to prepare, the better your chances will be to secure the custody or visitation rights you desire.
During the psychological evaluation, you will meet with an independent psychologist who will ask lots of questions about your personal or family circumstances. However, it is important to understand that the psychologist is not there to make a medical diagnosis. Rather, his or her job is to assess whether – and to what extent – granting you custody or visitation rights is in your children’s best interests. While this can be a tough pill to swallow, it is critical that parents remain polite and cooperative so that they can represent themselves in the best light possible.
While this can be a tough pill to swallow, it is critical that parents remain polite and cooperative so that they can represent themselves in the best light possible.
Some general tips for preparing for a child custody evaluation include:
- Work with your attorney to understand the types of questions you are likely to be asked and prepare favorable responses.
- Condition yourself to avoid making negative comments about your spouse, and to instead focus on your positive attributes.
- Plan for child care in advance if you will be attending the evaluation by yourself. If your children will be present during the evaluation, be prepared to attend to their needs while you are there.
- Arrive on time, and work with your attorney to compile any documents that the evaluator may request during the evaluation.
- Be honest, avoid embellishing or guessing at the “right” answer, and do not be afraid to ask for clarification if you do not understand a question.
Can My Spouse Request a Psychological Evaluation?
Yes, if your spouse believes that you are unfit to serve in your desired parenting role following your divorce, he or she can petition the court for a psychological evaluation. If this happens in your divorce, you will need to decide whether to oppose your spouse’s petition; and, if it appears likely that the judge will grant your spouse’s petition, you will need to begin preparing for the evaluation promptly.
Should you request an evaluation of your spouse?
Should you hire an independent evaluator to dispute the court-appointed evaluator’s conclusions?
What are the potential costs and benefits involved?
These are all important questions, and we are happy to provide you with additional information during your free initial consultation.
Contact the Cleveland Divorce Attorneys at Laubacher & Co.
If you are preparing to go through a divorce and have questions about child custody or any of the other issues involved in ending a marriage in Ohio, we encourage you to contact us for a free initial consultation. To speak with one of the experienced family law attorneys at our offices in Cleveland, please call (440) 336-8687 or request an appointment online today.