Preparing for your Custody Evaluation

March 4, 2024 | By Hillary J. Moonay

In many custody cases, it is common for the parties to participate in a custody evaluation. 

A custody evaluation is usually conducted by a neutral, mental health professional who will evaluate a family and make recommendations to the court.  A custody evaluation will take place over several sessions. 

While the process will vary, the evaluator often meets with each parent individually, the child(ren), each parent and child together, and the parents together.  The evaluator may also meet with other important individuals or review relevant documents at either the evaluator’s request or the request of either parent.  At the end of the process, the evaluator will write a detailed report of his or her observations, conclusions, and concerns and will usually include a recommended custody schedule. 

If you are going to participate in a custody evaluation, it is important that you are prepared in advance. 

Here are several tips to prepare you for a custody evaluation:

1. Review all information relative to your children.

While this might seem obvious, it is helpful to know their birthdates, teacher’s names, where they attend school, any significant medical history, extracurricular activities they are involved in, likes and dislikes and any special considerations the evaluator should be aware of. 

2. Be prepared to discuss your background.

The evaluator will often ask questions about where you grew up, if you have any siblings, your employment history, your relationship with the other parent, medical issues, doctors or therapists that you see regularly, who you currently live with, etc.  Again, while these may seem like simple questions, it is always helpful to review the information in advance to ensure you can give a thorough and accurate response.

3. Be factual.

While it is important to outline any significant concerns you have about the other parent, the evaluation should not be a bashing session.  You can simply state the concerns you have about the other parent, such as “I’m concerned he has an alcohol problem” or “in the past, my wife had anger issues and I worry about that when she is alone with our 5-month-old.”  Make factual statements without anything more.  The evaluator, who is a trained professional, will ask any follow-up questions that he or she feels are necessary. 

4. Focus on your strengths, not the other parent’s weaknesses.

Be sure to share with the evaluator your positive parenting skills and the things that you do with your children.  Think about what a typical weekday is like for you and your children and share some of those things with the evaluator.  For example, let the evaluator know that every Tuesday is special for you and your kids because it’s breakfast for dinner night.  Do the same thing with the weekend.  Share that you like to take your child to the aquarium or the playground or to visit extended family who lives nearby. 

5. Review the custody factors.

In Pennsylvania, there are 16 factors the court must consider when determining the child’s best interest.  While the evaluator might not specifically ask about each factor, he or she will consider them in reaching a recommendation.  By looking at the custody factors and jotting down a few notes about the factors that apply to your case, you will be well-prepared for the evaluation.

6. Don’t make unsupported, sweeping statements.

While custody cases are often contentious and you may have many negative feelings about the other party, making unsupported allegations is not advised.  General comments such as “he is a psychopath”, or “she smokes weed all day” without any supporting diagnosis or documentation could backfire.  You can tell the evaluator that you have concerns about a parent’s mental health or drug use – and explain the reasons why – but be concise and factual.

7. Remember, the process is about your children.

Try to keep the focus on the children and their best interests during the evaluation.  While you may not like the other parent, your child probably does and will want to spend time with both of you.  Remember that the process is not about “winning”, it is about determining what is best for your kids.

If you need help preparing for a custody evaluation, reach out to one of our Obermayer family law attorneys for assistance. 

The information contained in this publication should not be construed as legal advice, is not a substitute for legal counsel, and should not be relied on as such. For legal advice or answers to specific questions, please contact one of our attorneys.     

About the Authors

Hillary J. Moonay


Doylestown Divorce Attorney Hillary co-chairs Obermayer’s Family Law Group. She focuses her practice exclusively in the area of family law, where she handles all phases of the negotiation and litigation of domestic...

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