Learn about the 5 things you need to know going into a custody evaluation from the expert, Dr. Kitchen. Dr. Kitchen has been in private practice for 24 years and specializes in custody evaluations, parenting evaluations, competency to stand trial evaluations and guardianship evaluations. He has performed several thousand evaluations in his career and is widely respected by the courts that utilize him.
He has specialized in forensic psychological evaluations for the last 19 years. He is qualified as an expert witness in more than 10 Michigan counties or courts, and two counties in Indiana. If you want reputable information on custody evaluations, read here.
Dr. Kitchen began his practice in Dowagiac Michigan and, shortly after, opened his second office in St. Joseph Michigan, where his primary office currently is located. And, when it comes to custody evaluation, no one is more qualified to speak on the subject.
Dr. Kitchen highlights five points that will guide you through the process of your custody evaluation:
Most psychologists work in either independent practices or small group businesses. This means that the evaluating psychologist will have a great deal of contact with the office personnel, especially with the office manager.
When you call to make your first appointment, understand that it is very likely that the office manager or secretary will speak with the psychologist about their perception of you.
If you are flexible, polite, and respectful, this will reflect positively. If you are insistent and demanding, that also will get back to the psychologist.
For example, if you insist that you have a 5 PM appointment because you work during the day, this indicates that you are not considerate of the psychologist’s time or work schedule. By working with the office manager to minimize the inconvenience to both yourself and the examining psychologist, this would be considered a positive impression. It would suggest that you are capable of working in a thoughtful manner throughout the rest of the custody evaluation process.
If you’ve had missed visitations for some reason, make sure there’s a document validating your explanation. Make a call to the friend of the court and document it if you didn’t have a visitation when you were supposed to. If there are substance abuse issues or domestic violence in the past by the other party, make sure that is known; and if you’ve got any records, document what you can.
At this point it is ‘he said–she said’ between the parties, and the burden of proof is on your shoulders. Whatever document you can provide is better for you. Otherwise, it’s your word against the other parties.
They are going to say, “No–I didn’t refuse visitation rights. He/She just didn’t show up.” But, if you call the friend of the court, and say “I showed up at the meeting place to pick up my daughter/son and the other party didn’t let me have them,” that’s a document that helps argue your side.
Don’t try and be something you’re not. Most of the psychological tests have ways to know if you are lying to seem like a better parent–called validity scales.
The psychological community has done a lot of research on how to be a perfect parent. The final conclusion, from all of the research that was undertaken, is that there is no such thing.
No one expects you to be a perfect parent. You just need to prove that you are a good enough parent.
So, what do the courts and psychologists consider ‘good enough parenting’? Are you good enough as a parent to provide for your child’s emotional, social, economic, and financial needs?
If you have depression or have had depression or anxiety in the past, acknowledge this fact, and explain how you are dealing with it. It is important to site either medication, therapy, or a combination of the two.
Being honest is a better reflection on your character. Acknowledging an issue and dealing with it in an appropriate manner reflects upon your parenting judgment in a positive way.
Be honest about what you see about the other parent. If they’ve got a problem with drugs, tell the examiner you think that the other parent has a problem with drugs. If they are so infatuated with the new girlfriend that they are ignoring the kids, acknowledge those things.
However, your job in the custody evaluation is to prove that you are a good enough parent–not that the other parent is a bad parent. If they are as bad as you say they are, that will come through in the evaluation.
There’s a difference, between being honest about the other parent's issues and trying to make them look really bad. No one expects you to ignore problems and disagreements you have with the other parent. The courts do, however, expect you to focus on how you are a good parent.
Do not spend all your time talking about how bad the other parent is.
You may not particularly like the fact that you’re going to share custody with the person who betrayed you or hurt you. The whole point of the custody evaluation, however, comes down to what is best for the children. That should be the bottom line for the evaluator and hopefully for the court. That may mean that you don’t win this one.
It may mean that you have to share your parenting time with the other parent. If you don’t eventually gain full custody, focus on being the best parent you can be with the time you have. This, in the end, is a parent's most important responsibility to their children.
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