How to Request a Psychological Evaluation in a Family Law Case?

At the heart of a child custody dispute is the best interest of the child. The child’s physical and emotional wellbeing is what a judge prioritizes when determining child custody in divorce cases. Part of making this decision might be a psychological evaluation for one or both parents. If you believe your custody case would benefit from the other parent undergoing a psychological evaluation, it is within your rights to request one.

How Can a Psychological Evaluation in a Child Custody Case Impact My Case?

A psychological evaluation describes a meeting with a psychologist – often one appointed by the family courts – where the psychologist performs a few tasks to assess the psychological and mental fitness of the parent. These psychological testing tasks can include one-on-one interviews, written personality assessments and questionnaires, a review of mental health records, and interviews with people close to the parent. Psychological testing could impact your child custody case by calling you or your ex-spouse’s parental fitness into question.

The psychological evaluation will be framed by the goal of determining whether or not you are fit to have custody of the child. Although a mental health disorder will not automatically take custody away from one parent, it can become a determining factor in a child custody case. If the psychologist’s evaluation ends in a mental health diagnosis such as depression, paranoia, borderline personality disorder or schizophrenia, a judge will take this into account when determining where a child should spend most of his or her time. If the psychologist or judge believes the parent’s mental health condition could have a negative impact on the child, that parent may lose custodial rights.

If I Request a Psychological Evaluation for My Soon-to-Be Ex – Can I Be Evaluated as Well?

Yes, it is possible that you will have to undergo psychological testing if you submit a request to the court to have your ex-spouse evaluated by a psychologist. The judge may wish to have you both evaluated for a complete view of your family and the child’s welfare – or else your spouse may respond to your request with one of his or her own. If you are required to attend a psychological evaluation, consult with a divorce lawyer in San Diego for advice.

Your lawyer can help you understand what to expect and how to prepare for your evaluation. One of the main things to keep in mind is that the psychologist is not your therapist. Keep your conversations with the custody evaluator professional and relevant to your case.

How to Request a Psychological Evaluation

In California, psychological evaluations are generally not required as a matter of course in a divorce or child custody matter. For a judge to order a psychological evaluation, the family court must have significant concerns about the mental health of one or both parents. Court-ordered child custody evaluations may occur if there is reason for the courts to question the health, safety or welfare of the child with one or both parents, such as:

  • Domestic violence
  • Child abuse
  • Criminal convictions
  • Substance abuse
  • Mental illness
  • Children with special needs

A psychological evaluation may also be requested by one of the parties. If you believe your former partner has a mental health condition that makes him or her an unfit parent, you have the right to request a psychological evaluation. Do so by discussing your concerns with the judge. Your lawyer can help you support your custody case with evidence of your ex-spouse’s mental health problems. This may convince the judge to order a psychological evaluation on his or her own accord. If not, you can make this request by talking to the judge.

A psychological evaluation can ensure the protection of your child in a custody case. For more information about psychological evaluations in family law cases, consult with an attorney in San Diego today.