What is the Custody Evaluation Process? The whole process takes several weeks before a custody determination or Parenting Plan is done. The Custody Evaluator interviews the parents and children separately. The Custody Evaluator may request that you bring to your first meeting, a history of your marriage, specifics on children, and if there was infidelity or abuse. She is not a therapist and this is not the time to spill your deep, dark secrets.
All of you will undergo extensive personality testing, including the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Index).
Do answer these questions honestly and not how you think the Custody Evaluator would want you to. My friend Jerry’s friend administers this MMPI and he took this test as an experiment. First go around, Jerry answered how he thought his friend would like it and what would make him appear great. Then the second time, Jerry did the MMPI honestly, with how he perceived himself. What a difference between the two. The test administrator told Jerry that he got very low marks on the first test. When he answered exactly how he felt, he aced it and was rated a happy, stable person.
When I took the test the thing that helped me to be seen as a “happy person” is that I did my testing outside in a lovely courtyard. The birds were singing, flowers blooming, so I was in a calm state taking these battery of tests. See if you could take your tests outside of the office with nature around you.
Do meditate, watch a comedy, or whatever it takes to get you in a calm, centered state before doing each test. The results of these tests help determine shared time in custody, so do not do them in a panic. You may be asked to say what the Rorschach Inkblot pictures seem like to you. If one conjures up several images, do pick the happier one, the circus over a crime scene. Other tests are to draw a picture with each short paragraph, or tell a story around a picture shown. Again pick the more positive ideas for these tests, no blood-sucking zombies, please. A psychologist advises people to think of a happy scenario for each of these stories and drawings.
The Custody Evaluator will want to see how the children interact with both parents individually. She asked my sons and I to tell something funny that happened to us. She will ask different questions to gauge the relationship between the children and each parent. She may ask how you deal with a specific problem with a child.
Do save over ten thousand dollars on litigation post-divorce by avoiding my big mistake. My two sons flat out refused to have a session with their father. If this happens to you, let the Custody Evaluator deal with it, not you. I made my sons go to the session with their father and the younger son missed two days of school from stress. Since they did attend, she added a section to the Parenting Plan, “Reconciliation.”
Reconciliation or, also called Reunification, is a long process that has the parent and each child having a different therapist working together to have a reconciliation down the road, even though visitation is still taking place.
Don’t agree to this part. If the children want a closer relationship with an abusive or estranged parent, this is possible without the formal reconciliation process with a multitude of therapists. When the children’s therapist feel that they are ready for this process, then he informs the special reunification ones and all parties involved meet with the new therapists. Even when my sons’ therapist went to court to try and prevent the reunification process, the judge still mandated it because it was in the Parenting Plan. Only the youngest was still under eighteen by then and luckily when he refused to take part in this, so did the reunification therapist.
See if you can work out a schedule with your spouse during your divorce. You both can be creative and since you know your kids better than the experts, possibly come up with an improved shared custody arrangement. The Custody Evaluator is used when the spouses cannot compromise and seem to hit a brick wall. She is more the last resort than the first option. Put your egos aside and truly try to do what is best for your children.