In 2021, there were 689,308 divorces. Many of these families had children. Going through a child custody case can be an emotionally difficult and stressful time for any parent. When the mental health of a parent is called into question, a psychological evaluation may be requested or required by the court. Here is some guidance on navigating this process.

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Consult Your Child Custody Attorney

If you want to request a psychological evaluation of the other parent in your child custody case, it is essential to discuss this with your child custody lawyer first. A child custody attorney can advise you on the legal standards and procedures for requesting an evaluation in your jurisdiction. They can also assess whether there are sufficient grounds to justify an evaluation based on concerns about mental illness, substance abuse, or behavioral issues.

According to one study, around 1 in 14 children has a parent struggling with mental illness. Your child custody attorney can guide you in requesting proper legal channels and ensure your rights are protected throughout the evaluation process. Having a child custody lawyer represent your interests is vital, as psychological evaluations can be invasive and significantly impact the outcome of a custody case.

Understand the Purpose

Psychological evaluations are intended to assess a parent’s mental health and capacity to care for a child. Evaluations aim to determine if a mental health condition could impair parenting abilities or place the child’s well-being at risk.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated 1,670 children died from abuse and neglect in 2015. The evaluation may assess for mental illnesses like depression, personality disorders, substance abuse, and other behavioral health concerns. It provides insight into how a parent’s psyche may influence their role as a caregiver. The results will advise the court on custody arrangements that serve the child’s best interests.

Follow the Court’s Guidelines

Each state has laws and processes for obtaining a psychological evaluation during child custody proceedings. In most cases, you will need a court order approved by a judge before an evaluation can be compelled. For example, if your case is taking place in Beverly Hills, a Beverly Hills child custody lawyer will petition the court and provide evidence justifying the need for an assessment. 

According to the Children’s Bureau, nearly 3 million children in the US experience some form of maltreatment annually. The court may require both parents to undergo evaluations performed by court-appointed psychologists. You will likely have to consent to the evaluation and may be responsible for paying some costs. Be sure to comply fully with the court’s instructions to avoid consequences.

Seek an Experienced Evaluator

Ideally, you want an evaluator with substantial experience in family court cases. Look for a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist who specializes in forensic psychology related to legal processes. They should have appropriate training in child development and extensive knowledge of issues like parental mental illness, domestic violence, and substance abuse. 

Getting a court order for a psychological evaluation is complex, but your child custody attorney can guide you through the intricacies of the legal system. With an experienced evaluator, the assessment can clarify to the court how mental health factors may impact custody arrangements. Remember the end goal – a ruling that protects your child’s best interests.