Decisions that deal with children during a divorce are often filled with emotion and strong feelings, but in that respect, they are like many others. What makes this issue stand out, however, is that the family courts take far more of a keen interest in this matter than they do your credit card debts or who ends up with the family home. 

In fact, if you and your spouse cannot agree on a parenting plan for your minor children, then the judge may order a custody evaluation. Read on to learn more about this process and how to handle it.

What happens when an evaluation is ordered?

The judge will either appoint an expert, or you will be provided with a court-approved list from which to choose your evaluation professional. You and your spouse will be responsible for paying for the evaluation, and they can be quite expensive. In most cases, the expert works in the social science field and has special certifications in dealing with children.

What happens during an evaluation?

This entire process can take several weeks to be complete since it will consist of multiple interviews with various parties connected to the child. The expert will spend some time one-on-one with the child, and the parents are usually permitted to view the interview but not be in the same room. 

If the child is very young, the evaluation expert will use forms of play therapy to help them understand how the child feels about the divorce and each parent. You and your spouse can expect to be interviewed along with others like close relatives, the pediatrician, school or daycare personnel and more.

Preparing yourself and your child for the evaluation process

This process almost never happens unless the judge has decided that both of you are fit to parent your children, but there is much that can go wrong during an evaluation that involves a deep-dive into the thoughts and feelings of a child. Follow these tips:

1. Be yourself. The evaluation expert has never met a perfect parent and never will and attempts to appear so can make you appear to lack confidence in your parenting ability.

2. Be wary of bad-mouthing your spouse; it can make you appear vindictive and not open to sharing custody via visitation plans.

3. Never coach your children to say certain things about you or the other spouse. Most experts can spot a coached child, and it makes it appear that you are trying to cover up something yourself.

4. If you begin to see problems with the way the evaluation is going speak to your attorney at once. You can usually ask for a new expert to take over or have a second evaluation done if you perceive that you are being targeted or demonized in some manner.

Speak to your divorce attorney services to learn more.