If you have valid concerns about your former partner – perhaps they were abusive, an addict, or they cheated – there will be an opportunity during your evaluation for you to express your legitimate concerns about the other parent. But remember, this is a custody evaluation so your concerns must be in relation to parenting issues, and the information you provide must be substantiated. You need to have “meat on the bone” in order for the custody evaluator to take your claims seriously.
Calling your former partner names and criticizing their actions without any substantial reasons/proof for legitimate concerns will work against you. It demonstrates that you will not do a good job fostering a relationship between your children and their other parent. Although you may think and feel that way about the other person, it’s not something the evaluator really cares about. They get that, and they know all of the angst and anger and hurt that you may feel. They want to know – what are the legitimate concerns?
Discuss concerning behaviors and actions
If your former spouse drank a six-pack of beer, drove the kids to soccer practice, consumed more booze on the field, and several people approached him to offer transportation home for the children, then you have a legitimate concern. In other words, make your concerns relevant to the issues at hand. Do not provide the evaluator with information that you believe demonstrates what a hassle you think the person is, instead, help the evaluator understand what clearly defines your former partner as a parent. Present examples that demonstrate how they do or don’t care for the children.
The other parent’s actions can also be used to prove your innocence. Time and time again, I have had cases where one parent sets up the other one. For example, your former partner may have obtained a restraining order against you then later requested your assistance with something that would violate that order. You chose to fulfill their request because it meant helping your children. Instead of thanking you, your ex reports your violation to the police. The custody evaluation is your opportunity to set the record straight. Providing proof of your former partner’s request will demonstrate the true intent of both parties.
Explain communication challenges
Lack of or difficulty engaging in communication with your former partner is important information to share with an evaluator. If they cannot communicate with you, they cannot co-parent with you. Present the evaluator with examples of your attempts at communication and their refusal to respond or their hostile responses. Written communications are the best examples, as they will provide the evaluator with a clear understanding of the dynamics.
If you say or agree to one thing in regards to parenting your children, yet your former partner does the opposite, there is an issue. A refusal to uphold their end of the agreement on various topics should be mentioned to the evaluator. Make sure you provide examples and documentation of these situations.
What does proof look like?
Solid proof is important for any claims made during your evaluation. The more supporting data, the better your argument will be. I have received everything from emails and text messages to video and voice recordings. While backup is necessary, it is important to know that evaluators are able to determine whether a video or voice recording was created to set up the other person or if it was a genuine interaction that you were able to capture in the moment.
I also encourage you to provide sources who can validate your concerns. Neighbors, teachers, coaches, nurses, and any other adult who has had the opportunity to witness your former partner’s behaviors are considered good collateral sources. Before you provide a list of people, confirm that each source is willing to communicate with the evaluator. Evaluators may request to handle these sources in different ways. Some may prefer to communicate with each source directly via phone while others may prefer a letter that describes what they witnessed.