Divorce is often a complicated and emotional process for all parties involved. It becomes even more complicated when it’s time to determine the best timesharing and parenting plan for your children. Furthermore, disagreements between you and your spouse as to the best parenting plan for your family can lead to other costly processes during your divorce. After consistent disagreement where timesharing and parenting issues are concerned, the Court may order you and your spouse to undergo a parenting plan evaluation or social investigation.
What is it? A parenting plan evaluation or social investigation is performed by a mental-health professional, typically a psychologist, who will evaluate your family situation to recommend a parenting plan to you and the Court based on the information they gather. Their recommendation is based upon the child’s best interest. These mental-health professionals are called evaluatorsand each evaluator may have their own their procedure. However, you and your spouse can expect a few standard procedures during your evaluation:
Interviews– The evaluator typically interviews both parents and each child involved. These interviews are conducted separately but the evaluator may also observe interactions between all family members (sometimes in the home setting). The interviews may be coupled with other psychological evaluations to gather important information about each parent’s particular parenting style or mental health history.
Neutral Parties– Evaluators may reach out to various neutral parties to collect information about you and your family. This could include communications with a child’s teachers or medical professionals. If you, your spouse or your children have utilized the services a psychologist or therapist in the past, the evaluator may reach out to them as well.
Third Parties– Evaluators may reach out to third-party individuals, such as extended family members or friends, if they’ve had important personal observations and relevant information to your case. However, unlike with neutral parties who are typically not aligned with one parent or the other, the evaluator will consider that third-party witnesses are sometimes used to bolster one parent’s side.
Written Information – The evaluator may want to look at relevant court documentation and other pieces of written information to get a better understanding of your family situation.
Report– The evaluation yields a final written report which contains the professional opinions and conclusions of the evaluator. Within the report, the evaluator will also make suggestions about the best timesharing and parenting plan for your family. If you and your spouse can’t agree on the parenting plan provided by the evaluator, it may be used in Court where a judge may order a parenting plan based on the information contained in the report.
What should you do before the evaluation?
Likely the evaluation will be daunting for your children, so you may want to help them prepare. They will most likely be interviewed without you in the room. Before the interview, let them know that it’s okay to be open and honest with the evaluator. You may want to explain the interview process to help them feel more comfortable. Avoid pressuring your children to say something specific during the interview as coaching in any way will reflect negatively in your case. It’s important that they speak freely with the evaluator and provide an honest perspective about the divorce and family situation. Above all, let your children know that the purpose of the evaluation is not to choose sides, so they won’t have to make decisions about which parent they want to live with or which parent they want to see more often.
The Kendrick Law Group is dedicated to providing quality legal counsel in all aspects of your family legal matter. Call us today to schedule your consultation and learn more about how our experienced attorneys can help you.