Tips for Custody Evaluation Home Visits
If you are involved in a custody evaluation, your evaluator may wish to make a home visit to observe you and your kids. The evaluator may give you an idea of what to expect but they typically won't tell you what they are looking for. They will be at your home for about three house. They will want to have a meal with you and your child, and they will want to watch you participate in an activity together - typically homework or a game. They may ask you to participate in an activity with your child that shows how you and your child work together.
The evaluator will want to see how you interact with your child. They will want to see how you discipline your child, if necessary; how you work together on a project; how affectionate you are with your kids and how affectionate they are with you. They will want to see what you are feeding your kids, and if you address your child's needs. They will want to see if there is structure, and they will be looking for signs that you are facilitating a relationship with your ex.
For many people, this is easy. However, it may need a little more prep time for others who may not have been the primary caretaker.
AT LEAST TWO WEEKS BEFORE THE EVALUATION
You really should start preparing a couple weeks before the visit. If you are a bit messy, make sure you clean your house, including your kids' rooms a couple weeks ahead of time. You don't want your kids to associate your clean house with the evaluator's visit because your child will inevitably say something like "Mom made us clean the house for your visit" or "Our house is never this clean". It's really just best if the kids think a clean house is "normal". If it is done a couple weeks ahead of time it will seem more normal to your kids.
You should also cook with your kids a couple of times before the visit. You don't want it to appear as if you have never done that before. Teach your kids to crack an egg or measure an ingredient. You want this part to go smoothly and look as though this is a common occurrence. Again, you don't want your child to act as if this has never happened. Be sure to make this fun for you and for your kids. You will want to show the evaluator at that you have a happy, loving relationship.
If your child is of an age where it is normal for you to help with his homework, practice helping him for a couple weeks ahead of time. You don't want your child calling you out and telling the evaluator that you never help with homework. So practice this for a couple weeks before the evaluation. Also, make sure you have supplies readily available to help your child. You don't want to appear unprepared because that will make it look like you don't help your child often. Maybe even have a little homework supply box.
During your home visit, your evaluator will look to see if there is a picture of your ex with your kids in your house or in your kids' rooms. At the very least, have a picture of your ex in your kids' rooms. If you can manage to have a picture up in your house, that would even be better. But again, do this a couple weeks ahead of time so your child doesn't associate it with your evaluator's visit.
Let your child choose a healthy meal for the visit. That way you know your child will enjoy the food. You want to keep this visit drama-free if possible.
Your evaluator may allow you to choose the activity for you and your child, he may allow your child to choose the activity, or the evaluator may choose the activity. To prepare for this, play some games with your kids for the weeks leading up to the evaluation.
*** Ask the evaluator what he/she would like for you to tell your child about the home visit.
THE DAY OF THE HOME VISIT
1. Make sure you schedule the visit for a day where you will be well rested and not rushed. If you can, take the entire day off. That way you will not be pressured to finish everything on a tight schedule.
2. Do not run late.
3. Do not cancel unless there is an emergency.
4. Dress appropriately, be clean and well-groomed.
5. If your child is of napping age, make sure she naps before the visit.
6. Do not discuss the divorce or custody evaluation with the evaluator in front of your child.
7. Make sure you are prepared and have all ingredients for the dinner.
8. Do not drink alcohol or offer your evaluator any alcohol.
9. Brag about your child. Not to the point of being irritating, but if your child drew a picture, compliment your child. Let the evaluator know that you think your child is talented. Don't be phony, but sincerely compliment your child. This will help your child feel good about herself and will cause her to enjoy the evening more.
10. Do not discuss religion or politics. (However, if you and your evaluator are of the same religious background, you may mention it.)
11. If there is an opportunity to compliment your ex to the evaluator in front of your child, take that opportunity. For example if you are helping Billy with his homework and his dad is really good at math, you may say something like, "Billy gets his great math skills from his dad". Don't say how great your ex is with the kids - just say enough to help show you are not badmouthing your ex in front of your kids.
12. If your child is old enough, let him give the evaluator a tour of your home.
13. If you are playing a game with your child, don't become overly competitive. Just enjoy the game. If your child wins, make sure to display good sportsmanship.
14. Show affection to your child. Touch his shoulder or give him a hug.
15. Keep the TV off and make sure you child is used to the TV being off. This should be a no-electronics-day. Practice the no-electronics-day for a few weeks ahead of time. You don't want your child pitching a fit.
*** Note: If there are specific allegations against you, i.e. keeping a dangerous pet or not having a pool fence, make sure you have taken appropriate steps to address the issues. If your ex has made allegations about you having a dangerous dog, make sure you get your dog trained. If your ex made an accusation about you not having a pool fence, be sure your home and pool are up to code - fence, self closing doors, etc.