How psychological evaluations can change your divorce and custody case
When parents are fighting over child custody, the facts and circumstances can be complicated. In this situation, it can sometimes help a family court to have the additional insight of a mental health professional before ruling on custody and placement matters. Parties may request, or the court may order, that each side submit to a psychological evaluation for this purpose. If psychological assessments are used, there are ways they can change your divorce and custody case.
A psychological evaluation is a report which is prepared by a licensed psychologist after meeting with an individual. The evaluator will meet with you, ask questions, and note his or her observations. For purposes of a custody case, the questions may be about subjects such as your personal history, past treatment for mental health issues or substance abuse, parenting abilities, and inquiries about your ex-spouse and relationship with your children. Ordinarily, one psychologist will see each parent and child individually. Once everyone has been evaluated, the psychologist will prepare a report for each parent which states any applicable diagnosis, an assessment of the person’s mental health, and the practitioner’s opinion about his or her parenting abilities. The children’s reports will have similar mental health and relationship information as well as any concerns the psychologist may have about the child’s well-being.
Usefulness in Court
In some cases, courts can find psychological evaluations to be useful in identifying concerning issues. For instance, if a child’s report shows that he or she is afraid of a parent or one parent is telling the child to reject the other, the court can gain critical insight into the child’s emotional status and his or her experiences. Likewise, the evaluation could dispel one parent’s claims that the other is mentally unfit to parent.
Choosing a Psychologist
How much stock a judge may put into this report will often depend on how much respect he or she may have for the psychologist. If the court has worked with the psychologist in the past and found them to be professional and neutral, his or her evaluation can be very persuasive. When parties volunteer to submit to evaluations, they have some control over who completes them. Choosing a psychologist whom the court prefers is an excellent way to help make the report more effective in your case. That being said, not every court will value this information in the same way. It’s important to know as much as you can about the court’s preferences before agreeing to submit to this type of examination.