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A Guide to Parenting Evaluations

Florida Custody Evaluations

When parents decide to dissolve their marriage, one of their first and foremost concerns will be the health, safety and emotional wellbeing of their children. When parents cannot agree on a timesharing agreement, the courts may order them to undergo a parenting evaluation (PE), also called a custody evaluation. This is a formal investigation that attempts to determine each parent's respective ability to care for the children, and it is used to determine which parent is more appropriately suited to care for the children.

A parenting evaluation is often commenced at the request of one of the divorcing parties, but it can also be court-ordered. A parenting evaluation involves a series of interviews with each of the parents by trained and court-approved evaluators, and it also allows for what are called collateral contact interviews. Collateral contacts can be anyone; it can be daycare providers, neighbors, family friends, employers, marriage counselors etc.

The importance of collateral contacts cannot be stressed enough because these parties know you and your spouse, and they know what has happened in your relationship. In a parenting evaluation, factors such as drug or alcohol abuse, financial manipulation, domestic violence, mental cruelty and infidelity are important and to a parenting evaluator, these factors are a direct indication of what kind of person you and your spouse are, and they are relevant to the parenting evaluator.

Parental Evaluation Process

The parental evaluation generally begins when each parent fills out a parenting history survey form (PHS) or the ASPECT form, or both. The PHS is a lengthy questionnaire with approximately 100 questions. The PHS will cover many aspects of your marriage in detail such as when you met your spouse and other major events. Once this survey is filed out and turned in by both spouses, the interviews will be scheduled with a trained evaluator (a psychologist), and with the taking of psychology assessment tests.

During this interview, it's extremely important that you answer questions openly and honestly, that you remain calm and most importantly, that you do not slam your spouse, even if you have good reason to. Evaluators regard "spouse slamming" as a bad indication and they will hold such behavior against you. When you do relate truthful, yet damaging information about your spouse, make sure you to do it in an objective, non-blaming manner.

In general, various personality or psychological tests will be administered during the evaluation and most evaluations would be considered as lacking if such tests weren't given. Commonly administered tests are the MMPI and the MCMI.

At a minimum, Florida custody evaluations should involve parents, the minor children, observations of the parent-child relationship, and contact with relevant collateral sources. Without the evaluator interviewing both parents and the children, he or she cannot make a recommendation about custody or timesharing. Not only do most psychologists include psychological testing as part of the evaluation process, but they will typically review any relevant records as part of a comprehensive custody evaluation.

Get Informed; Contact a Panama City Child Custody Lawyer Today!

It is the evaluator's responsibility to make sure that all parties are treated equally, and fairness requires that each party be given equal amounts of interview time, that the parent-child evaluation time is equal, and that psychological tests used in the case are given to both parents. Furthermore, both parents should be given equal opportunity to provide collateral resources and records for the evaluator to consider. In conclusion, the decisions that are made in a child custody case have a long-term impact on all parties involved; therefore, the court is inclined to rely on the findings of the court-appointed or the court-agreed upon psychologist unless it is given valid reasons not to. For this reason, it is important for parents and their attorneys to become familiar with the proper procedures and guidelines for the conducting of such parental (child custody) evaluations.

Is a parenting evaluation on the horizon for you and your spouse? If so, we urge you to contact a Panama City child custody attorney from The Seaton Law Offices, P.A. right away. Should you go with our firm, you can be rest assured that your case will be handled by a competent and capable attorney.

Call us today to get all your questions answered about parenting evaluations and what you should do to become fully prepared.

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