Thursday, May 19, 2011

Custody Evaluations

Much has happened in the last two months that has kept me away from this blog...including me finally having read Alec Baldwin's book, A Promise to Ourselves, which left me thinking about more father's rights and finally pushed me to make time for this blog again.

In particular, I'm focused a bit on custody evaluations and what happens during them.

First. if you are about to undergo a custody evaluation...DO NOT RELY ON YOUR LAWYER TO PICK HIM OR HER.

I cannot stress this enough.  While your lawyer can recommend someone to be your evaluator I would highly recommend that you retain the right to agree to who the final choice is...and you are the one who will end up footing the bill for their services...and your lawyer barely knows you so why would you think they can select wisely for you?

Let me tell you part of our story...
Billie J. Bell was the evaluator for my DH's custody case.  The first time we met her it was apparent that she did NOT like my DH.  She was abrupt with her answers and dismissed lots of our questions by telling us to "ask our lawyer."

When we heard we were having a custody evaluation done, DH and I spent the next 2 months gathering documentation from friends and relatives and putting together a binder with photos and medical reports and letters of recommendation and school reports and grades and just about anything else we could think of that might be considered pertinent for determining the custody of a child.

During that first meeting we handed over our precious binder...she opened it up, read the first page, flipped through it quickly, paused at a letter of recommendation from my uncle who was a Representative of the Oregon House of Representatives...took out the page and tossed it aside remarking, "Well, this one is a waste of time...what could a Republican possibly have to say."  Additionally it was very clear to us that the fact that DH was in the military was a giant negative in her eyes.

DH's time with her lasted approximately 1 hour.  She informed us that she would be asking us to disseminate a packet to people who could provide a recommendation and ask them to fill it out.  She wanted all the documentation returned by a certain date.

No problem....the date was still a month away...she told us to take the binder back as she would "never look at it."  and while we were frustrated, DH and I figured we'd just better do things her way.

Now, just so you don't think we were total pushovers...DH did complain to his lawyer about her dismissive and negative attitude toward his personal beliefs, his political beliefs and his job, however our lawyer told us that it wasn't enough to "change" evaluators and ultimately we'd have to file a formal complaint with the state to get anything done about it...

It was too bad we hadn't had a chance to meet her BEFORE we paid her $3000 to dig into our lives and our friend's lives...we never would have agreed to her as the evaluator.

There is more to our personal story and I will finish it later, but let me just stop and focus for a minute about your first meeting with an evaluator.

They have one get the dirt.  They will ask you questions all about your difficult time getting custody, the frustrations of working with your ex to co parent, the time you get to see your kids, etc.

And when you finally have an outlet to tell someone all about the awful things you've endured just trying to receive equal and fair parenting time with your kids...too many of you dads open the floodgates and spill your guts...all the hurt, frustration, anger, sadness comes spilling out.


If you need to spill your guts call a psychic your your best friend...go see a to the not use the evaluator as a way to release that pent up frustration of the unfair shake you are getting as a father.

You can't spill your guts to the evaluator.  You can't speak badly about your ex.  You HAVE to learn to correlate everything back to the children and what is best for them...or you will be picked apart as a bitter, unhappy ex who is just trying to "steal" away the kids to punish their former spouse.

In our almost included anger management classes...which for anyone who knows my DH can laugh right along with me...if there is one man in the world who remains calm under pressure its him, but he made the fatal flaw of assuming that Ms Billie J. Bell was unbiased and impartial and was a friend that would hear him out and understand his pain.

Do not bother with a binder of all the wonderful things about you and your kids...So many websites told us this was a perfect way to introduce ourselves...its not.  In fact, I think it irritated Billie J. Bell that we presumed that she would be interested.  We quickly discovered how important it was to play by HER rules or ELSE.  It was very disheartening...and were I to ever go through it again I would not play the passive role that I played.  I was sure that the courts would be fair.  They aren't.  I was sure that Billie J. Bell was unbiased and impartial.  She was not.  I was sure that it would all work out the way it was supposed to... it didn't. 

How do I know that?  Because 4 years later there we were...
* custodial parents of one child
* siblings separated
* child was moved more than 60 miles from the maternal unit
* father still disciplines the way he see's fit and has never taken those anger management classes recommended by Ms. Billie J. Bell.


And the result?
* child we currently have custody of no longer suffers from all those behavioral and aggressive problems that were blamed on DH's awful parenting by our custody evaluator.

Funny how that works...