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Custody evaluation

Started by mistoffolees, Jan 10, 2007, 11:48:12 AM

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Looks like I'm headed for a custody evaluation (my stbx told me repeatedly that she was going to sue for custody unless I gave her more money, but of course I can't prove that's the motive behind it).

My daughter is 8. She is spending 50% of her time at each home. We signed an agreement that we would offer 50:50 both on a temporary and permanent basis (the court won't enforce this since it was not yet approved by the court, but it goes to her state of mind). My daughter is thriving under 50:50 and I'm the one who's doing the parent/teacher conferences, doctor's appointments, etc.

The question is this - how much weight is given to the daughter's statements by the evaluator? I know they'll never simply ask her where she wants to live and if she offers her opinion, it will largely be ignored. But what about her statements on factual issues?

For example, my stbx is very verbally abusive (I finally decided on divorce the day she called my 7 year old daughter 'a f%ck up' and told her 'you'll never amount to anything' even though her grades are consistently > 96% and she's active in a ton of activities - and is just basically a great kid). I have a lengthy journal of all the abusive things she's done, but that basically comes down to my word against hers.

Will the evaluator talk to my daughter and use her statements to corroborate my journal entries and to help make a decision?

I've been pretty happy with 50:50 most of the time, but if push comes to shove and the evaluator says that my daughter has to have one parent primary, there's zero doubt in my mind that it should be me.

Any comments would be appreciated.


I have mixed feelings on this.  We have been thru GAL's and custody eval's and more, it went all which way but Sunday.  So here is some things to think on from my POV.  I think it largely has to do with when the child is interviewed with which parent took her to the session, ie if you had taken her and she had a good time the child might say great things about you, and vice versa of the other parent, however if she was disciplined and then taken to the session it might go the other way.  Other things we ran into were things you and I would think innocent statements, the GAL or evaluator interpreted into something terrible.  ie, in our home, left overs are served at another meal, most parents will do the same, but child stated this to the GAL and it was interpreted that we forced him to eat leftovers, even tho we also ate leftovers.  This simple issue turned into a bad thing for BF, and since child then said that mom takes him out to eat every night, that was interpretted to be a good thing, even tho everyone know that a months worht of fast food can shut down your body.

Another thought is that if you sit in the session with the child - child will say things that they believe you want to hear, same goes for the other parent.  I think this is addressed in Gardners or Darnell's book.  

Remember kids will say what they think you will want to hear.  IT is hard at an early age to get a good understanding of waht they want, in our case the GAL report came back that the child was a liar for attention.  


I realize all of that, but my daughter's story is pretty consistent. She feels that her mother is harsh and mean to her (not all the time, but enough that it bothers her), but she never seems to have anything negative to say about me (even when I hear back from teachers or other third parties). I'm not too concerned that she'd say anything that could hurt me.

The question was 'how seriously does the custody evaluator take statements from an 8 year old, even if they're supporting what one parent claims?'


>My daughter is 8. She is spending 50% of her time at each
>home. We signed an agreement that we would offer 50:50 both on
>a temporary and permanent basis (the court won't enforce this
>since it was not yet approved by the court, but it goes to her
>state of mind). My daughter is thriving under 50:50 and I'm
>the one who's doing the parent/teacher conferences, doctor's
>appointments, etc.

Make sure you get documentation now that you are doing all of this...this will weigh heavy on the evaluator and the court in general.  We have done the parenting eval and are waiting for the CP to do hers.  She has put it off for so long now that teh evaluator asked why it is taking her so long.  The evaluators know when a child is coached.....they will evaluate the child separately and they tell the child that they do not have to talk about anything in their session....my son is 5 and he was very comfortable.  My suggestion if you have to go is do your eval 1st....then let her do hers last, but first with the daughter.  Depending on the age of your child....they will be more comfortable going in the 2nd time knowing what to expect.  

We were not as fortunate doing it that way due to living in 2 states, but my son is very adaptable and he was fine.

It has gotten to the point where today our attorney had our case mgmt conference because the CP was noncompliant in getting the PE done.  She has till the 8th of Feb...or they will go forward with final hearing without it.

Good luck.


In my experience, the custody evaluator will not directly ask your children anything about the divorce or your parenting.  He/she/they will perform a series of tests on your daughter to try to determine how she feels and what she thinks of you and your stbx.

For example:
He asks your daughter to draw a picture of you on the left side of a piece of paper, and your stbx on the right side.  Your daughter draws your stbx as a stick figure and you in more detail.  Then the evaluator asks her to draw a picture of herself between the two pictures.  She draws her picture closer to you.  The evaluator might say that your daughter has a better relationship with you because she drew you in more detail.  Also, that she probably wants to live with you because she drew herself closer to you.

The key is evaluating the kids to find out what their needs are and evaluating the parents to determine who can best fulfill those needs.  At least this is what happened in my case.  Hope it helps.


"The question was 'how seriously does the custody evaluator take statements from an 8 year old, even if they're supporting what one parent claims?'"

I am not sure that there is a right or wrong answer to this, I mean every one and their training is different and people see things in different light.  Kids of various ages and maturity say and exibit different things.  So I am torn as to what to say.  There are so many variables to this.  

I looked in my book by Douglas Darnell when I got home and it stated that the evaluator will (or should) want to see the child several times to see if the story is consistant, and will "use various interviewing techniques to see if the children have been coached by "you or your spouse".  To minimize the the posibility of the children being biased and not truthful, the psychologist will ask the parents to bring in the children several times for interviews.""

Over the years when faced with someone new assigned to our case, We resolved ourselves to this:  Tell the truth and while not coaching the child alert them as to what will happen, and tell them to be truthful, and hope that the evaluator will see what the true issues are.  

Good luck, and sorry I can not give you a definitive answer.


Thanks for your comments. It helps to know what I'm facing.


Honestly when DH went through an evaluation for YSS, more weight was pulled from Teacher's, Doctor, Pastor, etc. But YSS was four at the time and that may have had a lot to do with it.

As DH was the one involved in the school, with Dr's, had YSS in church activities, play-dates, etc. It leaned more favorably to him.


Though it'd be more costly, try to get appointed (or stipulate to use) a child psychologist who has a good reputation for custody evaluations.  A social worker may not be as insightful into reading the cues of a child.

Ask your attorney if it'd be appropriate for you (via your attorney) to send brief correspondence to the evaluator, outlining some of the concerns you have based upon what your daughter has shared.

While you can certainly share these in an interview with the evaluator, there is no paper trail, which means the evaluator can more easily disregard your conversation while preparing his final report.  Having a record of correspondence from your attorney allows your attorney to cross-examine him about the contents of the letter, should the evaluation report fail to address the issues or be unfavorable.

Realistically, no 8 year old is going to open up her unpleasant parts of life to a stranger.  It's not fun to discuss.  So, the evaluator has to be prepped on what to pursue (and it can be via drawing, game-playing, and indirect questions leading to gentle direct ones).

A good evaluator will want each parent to bring in the child separately, so the evaluator can see the differences in how open the child is, or how a story may change.

Also, in reality, an evaluator wants to be hired for more jobs.  In his/her recommendations, it's most likely that the evaluator won't stray too far from the status quo, unless there is a huge reason why the child is suffering from it.

An unpredictable evaluator won't be hired in the future by attorneys (i.e., attorneys will steer future clients away from the evaluator).


I had two custody evals done four years apart.  In the first case the evalauor was so biased against me it showed in her report, although that did not stop my X from getting custody!  The second evaluator just bascially rewrote the first report, put his name on it and charged me $6000.

What I leared from my kids is that the first cusotdy evlauor was more than biased, she was downright decpetive.  For instance she did a home eval at my X's house one night and at mine th e next afternoon.  At his house, unbeknownst to me she palyed games witht he kids and laughed and joked with them adn the da d nad Sm.  AT my house she was stern and kept looking at all of us like she was gonna cut off our heads.  My DD started to cry and cling to me adn suck on her fingers.  The evlautor noted that these were signs of stress adn said di was cause my DD obviously was uncomfortable around me!  I didn't hear about how she had behaved att he other house til just last year from my DS who is now 17!

I also got evidence that a professional treating my Dh for bipolar disorder had contacted this custody evaluator to advocate fro us wihtout our knowledge.  The treating professional told the custody evlauator that we didn't know she was contacting the eval.  She gave the eval a very favorable report on my DH.  The evla pushed it under the rug.  I only found out about when I got my DH's records when we were thingking of doing a mod several years later.

I wish you the best of luck.  I am sure there must be ehtical evlautors outt here I just haven't met any yet.  Frankly, i would inssit that every session be taped- audio adn video.  This evlautor even lied about things i had supposedly said to suc and extend that I had to pay $1500 to another evlautor to do psychologicals on me to prove to the judge that I'm not crazy.  It came back that not only am I not crazy, but I am extremely high functioning.  However, my X still retains custody!