Unless there is a situation that poses a significant threat or some other danger to the children, entities such as family court, guardians ad litem, custody evaluators, etc. really don’t care about moral judgments cast upon your ex-partner. While there are probably more than a few times where we may question the reality of “best interests of the children” – the focus generally is on what’s best for the children – even when the outcome of court matters sometimes appears to fly directly in the face of fairness or logic. There will be little or no time spent hashing out things like:
- My ex lets the children watch television excessively.
- My ex lets the children stay up to late or puts them to be too early.
- My ex lets the children play video games way too much.
- My ex lets the children watch PG-13 or R rated movies on occasion.
- My ex doesn’t discipline/reward the children in ways I approve of.
When it comes to custody evaluations, which are, more and more, becoming an integral part of child custody proceedings, it’s much better to go into the situation with the mindset of focusing on your positives; your parenting skills, your efforts to cultivate and assist with developing the relationship between the children and the other parent. Yes, even under high-conflict child custody and divorce circumstances, it’s beneficial for the children to be shielded from the conflict and positive relationships encouraged between them and both parents. This will go a long way to maximizing your parenting time and win child custody.
Spending the bulk of your time on “smaller issues” in an effort to portray your ex-partner in a negative light will almost always fail in a child custody evaluation. Worse, it can project to the custody evaluator an image of you as being uncooperative and unwilling to foster good communications and relationship between the children and your ex-spouse. Genuine, serious concerns should be articulated. They need to be balanced with a high focus on your excellent parenting qualities and demonstrated past efforts to keep that relationship between the children and your ex-partner growing. The only way your ex-partner’s negative behaviors are likely to impact a custody evaluation is if you can reasonably demonstrate potential serious harm to the children’s health, safety, and/or well-being.
Now, let’s not pretend to believe that some of the issues we’ve referred to as “smallish” aren’t legitimate to some degree. They very well may be. The point is that you have an extremely limited amount of time with a child custody evaluator. Your time needs to be spent wisely with a focus on high-level issues and being able to demonstrate that you are a quality, qualified parent with the knowledge, skills, abilities, and love to have a maximum amount of parenting time with the children. Save your venting about the lesser issues for friends, family, a therapist, or support group (for example).
When we say that the custody evaluation is a “No Judgment Zone” – we temper that with the knowledge that you will obviously have some issues that are of serious concern that need to be articulated and hopefully addressed. Avoid value judgments or moral judgments about issues that are not central to child custody. Remember that your discussions should lean towards highlighting your excellent qualities. Be prepared to discuss the issues about which you and your ex-partner disagree regarding parenting the children. Rest assured, the custody evaluator will ask direct questions that you’ll need to answer regarding your concerns. Remember which ones are critical to your case and which ones are not.