A custody evaluation is often required by the courts in Arizona to help the judge decide what type of custody arrangement would be best for the children. The reports are compiled by custody evaluators, who are typically therapists or psychologists. Their job is not to take sides of either of the parents in the evaluation, but to ensure they provide an objective report that determines the suitability of the parents to raise the children. However, one party may feel they’ve been overlooked, so we’ve put together a list of signs of a bad custody evaluation.
These evaluations are not always required. Generally, they are only ordered by the court when mediation and resolving the issues amicably does not work. Both of the parents typically hold hostility and resentment toward one another in cases where a custody evaluation is needed.
Bad Custody Evaluations
Even though the purpose of the evaluator is to provide an unbiased, objective opinion on the facts, this doesn’t always happen. If you find that things are not going the way you thought it would and you don’t believe it’s your fault, there are certain signs of a bad custody evaluation that you should watch for. Keep in mind that these things are rare, but it is possible to get a bad evaluator.
Spending Too Much Time with One Parent
If the evaluator is spending too much time concerned about what you are doing but is not giving that same scrutiny to your ex, it could be a sign of a problem. You may feel as though they are singling you out and looking for any mistakes that you might make.
On the other hand, if they are spending more time with the other parent and are getting along with them, you might believe that your ex could be skewing their opinion against you. Remember, the evaluator should not have any favorites. They are there to be unbiased. The only side they should be on is that of the children.
Not Listening to the Facts
When the evaluator talks with you and asks questions, are they dismissing facts that you are presenting? Are they ignoring the good things you are doing and not focusing on the bad things your ex might be doing? This would be cause for alarm, as it could give you an indication of how their report will be written.
Allowing Bad Behavior from Your Ex
Is your ex allowed to engage in bad behavior, such as badmouthing you, not abiding by the temporary parenting orders you have, or causing other problems? These should be things noted by the evaluator if they are causing problems with the children. If your ex is allowed to behave poorly, there’s one of the obvious signs of a bad custody evaluation. This is especially true if everything you do is being scrutinized and held against you in the report.
How to Improve Your Chances in a Custody Evaluation
You shouldn’t have to worry too much about these types of problems, even though they can occur sometimes. The custody evaluators are typically professional and do their jobs properly. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t things you can do that can help to improve your chances in the evaluation. Below are some tips that will help you to look better in the eyes of the evaluator, so they can see that you are doing everything possible for your children. In the end, that’s what matters—the kids.
1. Be Willing to Compromise
If you are inflexible and unwilling to capitulate anything regarding the parenting time and custody of the children, it will not look good. You should be willing to make changes and adjust to do what’s believed to be best for the kids. Unwillingness to compromise and cooperate is something that may end up in their report.
2. Don’t Smear Your Ex
It’s an emotional time, and you might be angry at your ex for the things they have done or are trying to do. However, as mad as you might be, you shouldn’t talk bad about them in front of your kids or the evaluator. Keep a calm head and it will reflect well on you.
3. Focus on What’s Right for the Kids
Your goal should be to focus on doing what’s right for the kids, not on what’s happening with your ex or what they are saying. Showing that you are putting your efforts towards doing what’s right for the kids is the type of thing that evaluators are going to notice.
4. Be Prepared
Always make sure you are prepared with the paperwork and information the evaluator needs. They will tell you what’s needed, and you must have it when it’s due. They don’t want to have to wait for the information, and it will paint you as being unorganized. This is not something you want the evaluator to think about when they are writing up the report and making their custody recommendations.
5. Don’t Tell Your Kids What to Say
The evaluators will want to speak with your kids. However, they do not want your kids to simply parrot what you tell them. They know how to look for indicators that the children have been trained to say certain things.
6. Don’t Get Personal with the Custody Evaluator
There is often the temptation to try to become friendly with the evaluator. You might feel that becoming closer to them or sharing personal information they don’t need to know will help your case. This is a bad idea for several reasons. First, they will realize what you are trying to do and won’t be happy at your attempt to undermine them. Second, if you were to become friends with them, it could damage your case when your ex finds out.
What If You Feel You Were Treated Unfairly?
In some cases, you might feel as though you have been treated unfairly in the evaluation. Perhaps the evaluator is not considering the facts that you and your attorney have provided. They might come to conclusions that are not supported by those facts, and there is no clear line of thought or evidence that can show how they came to their conclusions.
If you believe that the evaluator was unfair and you’ve noticed one or more of these signs of a bad custody evaluation, your attorney may want to file a motion to strike the recommendation and disqualify the evaluator. However, this is not an easy thing to do. The evaluators are considered experts, and if you can’t prove that they were biased, it will not work out in your favor.