Child custody disputes can be amongst the most stressful issues that you have to deal with in the course of your marriage dissolution. Making matters worse is that disagreements over custody and visitation can arise at any point in the child’s life up until the point that they become an adult, even well after your divorce is finalized.
If you’re unable to resolve these disputes with your child’s other parent, then the ultimate determination is going to rest with a judge. To help them make a decision that supports the child’s best interests, they may order a child custody evaluation.
The basics of a New Jersey child custody evaluation
Child custody evaluations are essentially an analysis conducted by a mental health professional with the intent of learning about the family and making a recommendation to the court as to the child custody arrangement that best supports the child’s best interests. The evaluation can be thorough, including but not limited to:
- interviews with both parents
- observations of visitation between the child and each parent
- the child’s physical and emotional needs
- the physical and mental health of each parent
The evaluator may even ask that psychological testing of any of the participants be conducted, and they may speak to anyone else believed to have pertinent information, such as teachers, medical professionals, and neighbors.
What you can do to prepare
Just like anything else involving family law, you need to be prepared for a child custody evaluation. You should show up to all appointments on time and dress appropriately, keeping in mind that your first impression counts. Also, be open and honest with the evaluator, but try not to come across as defensive or overly aggressive. Have activities planned for your child during your observation so that you can demonstrate your parenting abilities and your bond with your child. Seeing a therapist or providing one for your child can also make things easier to process.
We know that it can be stressful to be subjected to one of these evaluations. But you can and will get through this. If you need support or guidance as you navigate this process and your child custody dispute, then please consider reaching out to a legal professional who is well-versed in this area of the law.