Is a child custody fight in your future? Learn about the role of the social study in Texas child custody cases. Knowing what needs to be done to get ready is critical because social studies in a Texas child custody case are very important. In this sixth part of a 7 part blog learn about the role of the social study in Texas child custody cases.
Compile Documents and Records
It is critical that the information you provide to the evaluator is credible. Whenever possible, use other reports or sources of information to support your statements and concerns. Compile and make copies of any document that you feel may be significant to your case and that will support your expressed concerns. After you compile these documents, you should review them with your attorney before they are produced to the evaluator. By reviewing the documents with your attorney, the attorney will be able to guide you on the appropriateness of providing such documents to the evaluator as well as being able to give you advice on other documents that may need to be gathered and produced.
The following types of documents are typically considered to be significant:
- School records.
- Medical records.
- Police reports.
- Journals and diaries.
- Child care records.
- Counseling records.
- Drug test results.
- E-mail correspondence with the other party.
- Employment records.
Make a list of Collateral Sources
Collateral contacts are a key party of any child custody evaluation. Prepare a list of people you think that it is important for the evaluator to talk to as part of the evaluation process. Such persons may include friends, family members, employers, and teachers. Be sure to include in your list the person’s full address, the telephone numbers and a brief statement as to why you believe that each person has something important to add to the process. You should discuss with your attorney this list of collateral sources before providing it to the evaluator.
Interaction with the Evaluator During the Child Custody Evaluation
There is no confidentiality in court ordered evaluations. It is important for you to understand that the concerns you bring up during the interviews will be discussed with the other parent or party. If there is embarrassing personal information that is not relevant to the evaluation, then you may not want to reveal such information to the evaluator. Also, all documents that you and your attorney give the evaluator will be shared with the other party and attorney. If in doubt whether to share information or provide certain documents to the evaluator, then consult with your attorney first.
Completion of Questionnaire for Evaluator
The evaluator will most likely request that you complete a questionnaire as part of the evaluation process. The following are guidelines in responding to the questionnaire:
- Answer the questionnaire in a neutral tone.
- Do not lambaste the other party.
- Do not be critical of the other party or make sarcastic comments.
- Answer just the question asked.
- Provide complete answers.
- Make references to supporting documentation.
- Stick to the facts and do not embellish.
- Tell the truth.
- If you have concerns, state the reasons for your concerns.
Execution of Releases
You will be asked to provide releases so that the evaluator can speak to doctors, teachers, therapists, both past and present. A failure to execute the requested releases may impact the evaluator’s final report and recommendations. It is important that you be completely candid with your attorney regarding any issues that may be revealed in the documents that the evaluator will receive as a result of the releases.
General Rules of Conduct
Custody evaluators expect you to be nervous. They understand the stress that the evaluation process can cause. Following some basic guidelines will decrease your stress and help the evaluator get a true understanding of you and your parenting style.
- Be on time.
- Keep your appointments.
- Appear at your appointment with the evaluator appropriately dressed and groomed.
- Don’t become defensive.
- Be yourself.
- Make a list of specific information you want to relate or questions you want to ask before arriving at the appointment.
- Keep the evaluator apprised of any changes that occur in the information that you have provided.
- Pay attention to the questions and answer them directly and to the point. Ask for an explanation if you do not understand the question.
- Respond promptly and calmly to the evaluator’s requests.
- Do not make repeated calls to the evaluator or call to see when the report will be finished.
- If you give the evaluator names of collaterals, inform the collateral sources in advance that they may be contacted so that they can prepare to speak on your behalf.
DO’S and DON’TS During the Child Custody Evaluation
- DO be truthful. Tell the good, the bad and the ugly. If you can be honest, this will likely be an advantage.
- DO be as objective in your reporting of the problems as you can without dwelling on a litany of negatives. In most cases, custody contests involve two people who have divergent ideas about what is in the best interests of the children. Keep this in mind and put your best foot forward, being careful not to step on the foot of your spouse.
- DO assume responsibility for your own actions. The evaluator knows that no one is perfect. It is far better to inform the evaluator of your shortcomings and explain how you are working to make any needed changes.
- DO focus on why you are a better parent, not why the other parent is a bad parent.
- Do paint pictures for the evaluator with your descriptions. For example, it does no good to state that “it is in the best interest of the children” to be with you. It is more effective to state, “while my husband worked two jobs, I stayed home with the children and did all of the cooking, cleaning and child care.”
- DO separate your personal problems with the other party from your parenting concerns.
- DO hammer the themes of your case in positive terms, by concentrating on why you are good, not why the other parent is bad.
- DO be attentive to your children’s needs and focus on their interests and not yours when the evaluator is observing you with your children.
- DO separate marital problems from parenting issues. Even though your spouse may have angered or betrayed you, this behavior does not mean that your spouse is not a fit parent or that he or she does not love the children.
- DON’T be hysterical or histrionic.
- DON’T give long rambling recitations of the other parent’s claimed inadequacies, otherwise, you will turn the evaluator off.
- DON’T prep your children to say negative things about the other party. It is obvious when this has occurred and is not considered a positive action on the part of the adult.
- DON’T prep your children to say certain things or to not say certain things.
- DON’T look at the custody investigation as a win/lose situation, but rather as an avenue to arrive at good plan for your children.
- DON’T lie. If you lie and the evaluator catches the lie, then the evaluator will assume that everything you have told him or her is suspect. In the end, you lose all credibility with the evaluator.
- DON’T whine.
- DON’T criticize the other party.
- DON’T speak badly of the other party. Instead stick to the facts and let the facts speak for themselves.