Developing an Effective Parenting Plan

Useful Tips on How to Prepare for a Custody Evaluation and Gain an Edge in Your Custody Battle!
Custody evaluations are very important in determining child custody and access during contested divorce proceedings. Divorce courts give considerable weight to the recommendations of the evaluator. Below are some guidelines that will assist when you prepare for your custody evaluation with the expectation of ending your custody battle.

  • Arrive on time at your custody evaluation interview.
  • Dress neatly and conservatively.
  • Be honest. The custody evaluator will likely check out your statements with collaterals and/or other sources.
  • If the custody evaluator chooses to use psychological testing, ABSOLUTELY answer honestly. The tests are designed to detect defensiveness and lies and unless you are an expert in psychometric testing, you are unlikely to fool them.
  • Be sincere. The custody evaluator can usually detect over embellishment and insincerity.
  • It's allright to be nervous; most people are.
  • It's allright to cry and/or show emotion; many people do.
  • Answer questions directly and to the point.
  • Make sure you pay attention to what the evaluator is asking.
  • Take your time when answering a question. If you do not understand what is being asked, feel free to ask the evaluator to explain what he/she means.
  • If the custody evaluator asks that you provide additional documentation, do so as promptly as possible or communicate any concerns about getting it.
  • If you provide the custody evaluator with names of collaterals, it is a good idea to inform them in advance that they may be contacted so that they can prepare to speak on your behalf.
  • If the custody evaluator is observing you with your child(ren), be attentive to their needs and focus on their interests and not yours.
  • Present yourself as being reasonable and placing the concerns of your child(ren) above all.

The following is a list of things to avoid doing during a custody and access evaluation...

  • DO NOT speak badly of your spouse/partner unless the custody evaluator asks you to comment on what you perceive to be the problems between you.
  • DO not make threatening comments about your spouse/partner or anyone else to the evaluator.
  • DO NOT harass the custody evaluator with phone calls.
  • DO NOT drop by the evaluator's office without an appointment.
  • DO NOT call the custody evaluator to see if the report is completed.
  • DO NOT prep your child(ren) to say negative things about their other parent. The custody evaluator has ways of telling if this has happened.

Custody evaluators recognize the stress people are under during this process and take this into account when assessing family members. If you are feeling stressed and anxious, it is allright to acknowledge it and allow the custody evaluator to help allay some of your concerns.

Custody evaluators also recognize that there are no perfect parents and his or her recommendations should be directed at determining the best parenting arrangement to meet your child(ren)'s needs.

© 2008, Reena Sommer

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However often marriage is dissolved, it remains indissoluble. Real divorce, the divorce of heart and nerve and fiber, does not exist, since there is no divorce from memory. - Virgilia Peterson

Dr. Reena Sommer is an internationally recognized relationship and divorce consultant. She became widely known as a strong critic of domestic violence policies that failed to recognized the reciprocal nature of partner abuse.

Dr. Sommer has been an invited speaker to academic, government and lay audiences in Canada and the U.S.. In 1998, Dr. Sommer testified before the Joint Senate-House of Commons Committee on Custody and Access on the issue of domestic violence. More recently in April 2002, she was invited by the Canadian federal government to participate on a panel of experts on the issue of custody and access.

She has written extensively on relationship and family issues such as domestic violence, addictions, divorce and custody. Her interest in high conflict relationships led her toward developing expertise as a divorce consultant in the assessment and treatment of parental alienation syndrome under Dr. Richard Gardner. As well, Dr. Sommer recently completed her e-Book, The Anatomy of an Affair. A free condensed pdf version of the e-Book can be downloaded.

Dr. Sommer has produced three divorce related informational products which are currently available online in the form of downloadable audiofiles: Divorce 101: Things You are Unlikely to Hear from an Attorney; Developing an Effective Parenting Plan, and Preparing for a Custody Evaluation.

You are also welcome to sign up for a free mini-course, Arming Yourself for Your Custody Battle! See or for more information, please email us at E-Mail or 204. 487.7247 or fax: 204.487.3051  

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