I was recently speaking with an attorney whose client was preparing to meet with an evaluator for a Comprehensive Family Evaluation. He had just discovered that I prepare other lawyers’ clients for Comprehensive Family Evaluations. He asked if it was ok for her to meet with me after her first meeting with the evaluator. I explained that meeting with me after she already met the evaluator is better than not meeting with me at all but definitely not as good as meeting with me before any meetings. Why? First impressions matter . . . a lot.
Google "Do first impressions matter?" and you will see hundreds of articles discussing the importance of first impressions. You only get one opportunity to make a good first impression. In a Comprehensive Family Evaluation, a bad first impression can cause bias that may affect your case and eventually the evaluator's recommendations. So err on the side of making the best impression possible during that first visit. It is important to present your best self when meeting with the evaluator for the first time. Unfortunately, sometimes people going through such difficult times, such as a custody battle, do not act like themselves. Sometimes they need a little guidance.
You may wonder what the best ways to improve your first impression might be. The following are tips I give to my clients:
1. Be on time. I cannot emphasize how important this is. Being on time will show the evaluator that you are taking this evaluation seriously and that you are respectful of the evaluator's time. It is best to plan on being at least 15 minutes early. I recommend clients MapQuest the directions for the time of day they intend to go to be sure they are on time. They may even want to drive by the evaluators office so they know exactly where they will be going.
2. Be kind to the evaluator's staff from the first time you speak with them on the phone until after you have received the evaluation. The staff will definitely share their experience either the evaluator. If you are disrespectful or rude to the staff, that may show up in your report. It is important to be on your best behavior during this evaluation process.
3. Appearance/hygiene matters. It is important to look good and smell good. You want the evaluator to enjoy spending time with you. If you smell bad or have bad breath the evaluator might want to cut the session short. You also want your appearance to be neat and tidy. Remember, if the evaluator thinks you can't take care of yourself, he probably will have some serious questions as to whether you can take care of a child.
EXPERT TIP - Cover any tattoos and remove piercings other than women should have one set of earrings but no more. You want to appeal to your biggest audience. Although tattoos are very common now, your evaluator may be old school and not appreciate them as much as you would like.
4. Organize your thoughts. If you walk into the evaluation and start spewing complaints about your ex in an unorganized manner, not only might your evaluation believe you are just complaining about everything, the evaluator may also not really understand how all your complaints affect co-parenting. It is important to organize your complaints so the evaluator can understand why your complaints matter. For instance, if your ex calls you names in every text/email, that would make co-parenting difficult. It also shows that your ex's feelings for you may interfere with his ability to base decisions on the best interest of the child and instead he may base decisions on his emotions.
5. Timelines help organize thoughts and provide a lot of information in a short space. Timelines help evaluators more easily understand the issues and the timing of those issues. Timelines can easily paint a picture of domestics violence, substance abuse and mental health issues. The timeline will also
show the evaluator that you are taking this process seriously and that you have really put effort into the evaluation.
EXPERT TIP: Have your client put lavender on his/ her temples prior to going into the meeting. Our will help your client relax and if the scent is strong enough, it may also cause the evaluator to relax and have peace of mind which will now be associated to your client.