by Lucy K. Wright
I had no idea that when my ExN filed a motion to request 50/50 parenting time that we would be venturing down the long, winding, twisted, turning road of yet another multi-month PRE evaluation.
Been to that rodeo once before – when we went through the initial divorce.
But 7 years later, and he was insisting upon putting us all through the grueling process again?
Amazingly enough, he didn’t even want more parenting time three weeks prior, when we were at an entirely different mediation session we had been ordered to attend, for an entirely different matter.
He only mentioned wanting “a little more time” with the kids then.
But as the narcissist Groundhog Day story goes, a few months later, and it was back to the courthouse once again.
This time, ExN and his lawyer insisted upon retaining a PRE (Parenting Responsibilities Evaluator). The ExN and his lawyer even threw in their winning card: that they would “agree to pay 100%” for the upcoming PRE evaluation, AND, in offering that, they would like to choose the actual PRE Evaluator.
Without any questions, comments or hesitation, the judge said OK.
Did the judge take time to read the documents in front of him? Did a PRE evaluation even make sense again, so many post-divorce years later?
Or did the judge just look at our 100 page++ court record and decide another PRE evaluation was the easiest default route to go down yet again.
My head was spinning.
What. Had. Just. Happened.
Fast forward through several anxiety filled weeks of filling out required paperwork, revealing every detail of my life to the courts, the ExN, and his lawyer, while waiting for the first phone call from the Evaluator to reveal the next steps in the process.
I sat in the parking lot of the Evaluator’s office, a half an hour early as to have ample time to drink my Red Bull and mentally prepare myself for the initial PRE interview. My mind was racing with some of the tips that were going through my head from the first time I did this: Speak calmly; Do not become angry or emotional; Do not slam my ExN, no matter how many times I might want to; And always, no matter what, speak the truth.
My thoughts were interrupted by a ringing phone.
I did not recognize the number, but answered and heard this:
“Hello, is this Lucy? This is Dr. Evaluator’s office. You are 15 minutes late for your appointment and the Doctor has been waiting on you. Are you planning on attending this important initial session today? The Doctor’s schedule is booked and you running late is quite an inconvenience for him.”
My appointment was at 1PM that afternoon. I remembered both calling and emailing my attorney to let her know the details of my first appointment. I know I listed the appointment in my calendar for 1PM. I checked again. Yes, it was there. But now I was late? That couldn’t be right. I am organized and I knew how important this appointment was; my mind was racing.
I knew from going through this process before that every move, word, and action I portrayed was going to be analyzed and documented. My first impression this time around was now going to be that I was disorganized and couldn’t remember things. Great.
I rushed up the stairs and was greeted by a very unpleasant woman at the front desk of the Evaluator’s office, and using her very loud voice, she reminded me once again, in front of others, that I was late, and inconveniencing the Doctor who had been very patiently waiting on me.
I took a deep breath, cracked a small smile, held my composure and apologized profusely. I told her I had the appointment listed in my calendar for 1pm, but that I possibly made a mistake in writing down the time, and I was sincerely sorry for any inconvenience I had caused. As I was saying the words, I knew the mistake was not on my end, but I took ownership as I felt it was the right, and only, thing to do at that point.
And as I found out later, in the Evaluator’s final report, this first encounter with the Evaluator was indeed analyzed and documented quite well. The Evaluator felt I “held up quite well” during this first initial “test.”
As it turns out, my initial appointment time was correct. 1PM. I didn’t know I was being “evaluated” on how I handled the call and the claim that I was late. But I was.
The Evaluator wanted to see how I reacted in a situation that might cause me high anxiety or stress; thus the reason for his assistant’s call to me. Her call automatically caused me to have negative thoughts about myself: What did I do? How could I screw up this first session? I was wrong – again – just like I was always told I was by the ExN.
After I hung up the phone with her, I knew had two choices: walk in to my first appointment with my head down looking defeated, or take the high road, apologize for “my mistake,” and move on.
As I learned over the years in dealing with this continuous narcissist battle, when in doubt, always take the high road.
I have respect for those who conduct PRE evaluations. This is not an easy job.
Evaluators have their own unique styles and processes. The first evaluation I went through was very different than the second. Throughout the second PRE process I had to accommodate several “last minute” appointments requested by the Evaluator, not only for attending sessions by myself, but at times having to coordinate getting my kids from school or activities, and being available quickly when the Evaluator suggested we needed to meet.
We had three home visits, two which were scheduled the morning-of, where my home was presentable, but certainly not how I would have had it arranged if I had been given more notice. I had to remind myself that that didn’t really matter, and to just take a deep breath, relax, and try my best to get through what I needed to get through for my family and myself.
In seven months, I visited with the Evaluator five times at his office myself; an additional three times with my kids; and he visited our home three times. He spoke with my husband, my family, some friends, and some neighbors so that he could assess, and essentially compile a report all about my life, and his perceptions of my abilities to be a good mom and provide my kids with a safe home environment.
The PRE process is invasive. Your entire life is exposed. You are asked about your past, your present, and to descriptively explain every picture you have hanging on the walls of your home. Look around your home. Think about a complete stranger grilling you on your most personal photo memories, which you have proudly displayed, never thinking when you were hanging these memories up that such questions might be asked.
The PRE process is exhausting. You cry a lot – sometimes you cry to a loved one when you need the support; but often you just cry by yourself, from the pure mental and physical exhaustion of going through all of this, wondering why you were given the challenge you were in life to stand up strong and persevere through this battle.
Just like many other things in life, you are only going to get one chance when you go through a PRE process. So do it well.
No matter how tired you are, present yourself as a fair and reasonable person, do not make false accusations against your ExN, do not become angry or emotional, take a lot of deep breaths because it’s not going to be easy; always – always – always, no matter what, tell the truth.
And if and when you’re hit with those unexpected moments, like being “late” to appointments that you know you are not late for – breathe, smile, apologize, show respect, and never sacrifice your own class, no matter how difficult the situation, to get even with someone, like your ExN, who has none.
~LLS~ Lucy K.
(Note: The specifics of a PRE processes may vary with State law. Please consult resources within your own state for additional information on this process.)
A Parenting Responsibilities Evaluation (PRE), also called a Custody Evaluation, is a formal process investigation that attempts to assess the level of each parent’s respective parenting skills, and then used to determine which parent may be best suited to care for the children.
A PRE is typically used in higher-conflict custody cases, or when there are multiple issues that need investigating. The evaluation must be conducted by a licensed mental health professional. The PRE can be done at the request of one parent, or may be court-ordered.
The process generally begins each party filling out a parenting history survey as directed by the Evaluator. There are initial one-on-one interviews with the Evaluator, taking a psychological assessment test, parent/child play sessions, additional interviews, and possible home visits.
A written report of the evaluation is due to the Court and participants a few weeks before the hearing and includes a description of the process, the data collected, a conclusion explaining how the recommendations were reached, and the actual recommendations.
A typical PRE takes about 90 days…
…unless you are dealing with someone who has NPD, in which case, based on my personal experience, the timeframe may take much, much longer.
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