Home » Blog » How To Request A Psychological Evaluation In Your Child Custody Case
How To Request A Psychological Evaluation In Your Child Custody Case
Mental health conditions are serious issues that often result in the need for treatment by a medical professional. Many mental health conditions can be treated with medication and therapy. Some conditions could interfere with parenting ability.
A psychological evaluation may be necessary to decide if a parent is fit to havecustody and unsupervised visitation.
Psychological Examinations in Florida Custody Cases
Psychological evaluations are tools used by the court to assess factors that impact the best interests of the child. The factors could be individual factors or family factors.
A psychologist or evaluator conducts a custody evaluation to advise the court about various issues. The psychologist assesses the child’s emotional and psychological needs. The evaluator also assesses the ability of each parent to meet the child’s needs and the parenting capabilities and mental health of both parents.
The Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure allow for a custody evaluation of the parents and the child. Florida judges decide whether a psychological evaluation is warranted on a case-by-case basis.
The court may also appoint a Guardian ad Litem to advocate for the child’s best interest. If the custody evaluation and the report filed by the Guardian ad Litem differ, the judge may order additional evaluations to determine why the reports differ.
What Happens During a Psychological Custody Evaluation?
During the evaluation, a psychologist uses several techniques to evaluate the family members and the family unit as a whole. Common resources and tools used during the psychological evaluation include, but are not limited to:
Psychological assessments and tests for parents, children, and other members of the household;
Observe each parent’s interactions with the children to determine and evaluate the person’s parenting style and methods;
Individual interviews of the parents and the children;
Obtain and review documents that describe the developmental history of each child, including medical records, school records, therapy records, etc.;
Conduct home visits;
Review previous court orders, including allegations of abuse or neglect;
Review other evidence that assists in the assessment, such as recordings, journals, school projects, drawings, and activities; and,
Conduct interviews with other parties who may provide relevant information, including teachers, health care providers, extended family members, babysitters, stepparents, therapists, and neighbors.
Upon completion of the assessment, the evaluator reduces the findings in a written report submitted to the court. The parties have access to the report. In some cases, the parties may reach an agreement for custody and visitation based on recommendations contained in the report.
If a parent believes that a psychologist appointed by the court did not act in good faith, the parent may file an administrative complaint against the psychologist. The court reviews the complaint and determines whether another psychologist should be appointed to conduct a custody evaluation.
Expect To Be Required to Submit to Testing Too
You should be prepared to submit to a psychological evaluation yourself. If you petition the court requesting an order forcing your child’s other parent to submit to an evaluation, the judge may order you to complete an evaluation too.
Requiring both parties to complete the evaluation helps keep the process fair for both parties. It also serves as a deterrent to parents who might consider making false allegations of mental health issues to win a custody battle.
First impressions are important. When you appear for a psychological evaluation, make sure to act professionally andwear appropriate clothing. Be polite and respectful during the evaluation. Combativeness could be viewed as an indication of a parenting problem. You want to make the best impression you can on the judge who is hearing your case.
How To Prepare for a Child Custody Psychological Evaluation
Having a pending psychological evaluation can be stressful. Many parents feel the need to “coach” their child on what to say or do. However, coaching your child can backfire.
Instead, try to keep these tips in mind when preparing for a psychological custody evaluation:
Talk to your attorney about the evaluation. Be honest and open with your attorney and discuss any potential concerns you may have about the evaluation.
Provide information to your attorney to present to the evaluator, including a list of witnesses and documentation.
As stated above, dress appropriately for all meetings and arrive on time for all meetings.
Do not call the evaluator unless instructed to do so. If you need to communicate additional information to the evaluator, tell your attorney.
Respond promptly to any requests made by the evaluator.
Do not become defensive, combative, or angry when being questioned by the evaluator. Remain calm and answer each question openly and honestly.
The goal is to communicate your child’s needs to the evaluator in a clear, concise manner. Work with your lawyer to develop a list of concerns and goals related to your child, including goals for custody and visitation. Try to be specific why you believe your goals are in the best interest of your children.