Things to Consider When Going Through a Custody Evaluation or Mediation

  1. Relationship Timeline.  Be prepared to discuss (if asked) the brief history of your relationship with the other parent, such has when and how you met, when the relationship became serious, began living together, when married, when separated (and the circumstances surrounding that);
  2. Parenting Timeline. How custody was handled while living together and what it has been since separation.
  3. Personal Timeline. Are there grandparents, where do they live, are they part of the child’s life and how; the child’s relationship with step and/or half siblings, custody arrangements, if any, of the step siblings with their own parent; summary of your life growing up, work history, your current work and living situation.
  4. Presentation. It is important that you present yourself as reasonable, articulate and flexible in the evaluation and in implementing an actual parenting plan.  It is critical to focus on the child’s best interest and to keep your dislike for the other parent to a minimum – “angel vs. devil” is unproductive and harmful.
  5. Parenting Plan.  Have 3 or 4 possibilities from the best-case scenario to “the nightmare you can live with” taking into account the child’s general developmental stage.
  6. The Other Parent.  You will be asked to state your concerns about the other parent and any proposed plan suggested by that parent.  It is best to focus on the present while using the past incidents as a prelude to the present
  7. You.  Please be prepared for the evaluator/mediator to turn the tables to ask you to address concerns that you believe the other parent may have about you; or, the evaluator/mediator may simply tell you the other parent’s concerns and will ask you to address those concerns.  This calls for real soul searching and honesty – my experience is that the breakup of a relationship is almost never the fault of one person.  It is important that you demonstrate that you are the more enlightened parent.
  8. The Positives.  Please think of the positive qualities of the other parent.  It is critical that you have deep perspective on your role in the conflict, the positives of the other parent and what you and the other parent (as individuals) can do to improve the situation.
  9. Witnesses. Please be prepared to provide the evaluator with the names, addresses, telephone numbers and fax numbers of people you think he/she should talk to and why.  This may be family members or friends that are familiar with you and the situation.