When is a Psychological Evaluation Necessary in a Child Custody Case?
Child custody cases can become very heated, often resulting in name calling and unfounded accusations. This does neither the parents nor the child any good as it only extends the custody determination process. This is especially true when one or both parents accuse the other of being “unfit.” When a judge hears that a parent is unfit, they want to know how and why. Oftentimes, getting to the root of the accusation involves a psychological evaluation of both parents and of the child.
When Will a Judge Order a Psychological Evaluation?
Either of the parties or the judge may order a psychological evaluation in a Florida child custody case. Typically, when one parent requests the psychological evaluation of the other, it is because they believe that the other parent is unfit to be custodial parent. Unfit can mean anything from being physically incapable to mentally incapable of meeting a child’s basic needs. Upon observing each parent, the child, and the child interacting with each parent, the psychologist will make a determination that is either supports or disproves the requesting parent’s claim.
When a judge orders a psychological evaluation in a Boca Raton child custody case, it is typically because they are concerned about the parenting capabilities of both parents and would like a professional’s opinion regarding what would be in the child’s best interests.
Whether the judge ordered the evaluation, or whether it was requested by one or both of the child’s parents, the psychologist’s job remains the same: to provide a neutral analysis of each parent’s mental and physical health, and their ability to provide for the child. While a judge does not use a psychologist’s recommendation to make their final decision, they do give significant weight to the doctor’s suggestions.
What Does a Psychological Evaluation Entail?
A psychological evaluation involves the child or children and both parents undergoing a mental health assessment by a court-appointed psychologist. The psychologist will perform and oversee the following:
- Interviews with both parents;
- Interviews with the child or children;
- A psychological testing of both parents that evaluates both personality and parenting approach;
- Interviews with outside sources such as teachers, neighbors, babysitters, and family members;
- An overview of school and medical records;
- Observation of how each parent interacts with the child, and vice versa; and
- Home visits.
The entire process can take months to complete. Because of this, our Boca Raton child custody lawyers do not recommend requesting a psychological evaluation unless you are sincerely concerned about your child’s other parent’s parenting capabilities. Otherwise, putting your child and former spouse through the evaluation process can be a huge waste of time and money for the both of you—not to mention highly detrimental to your child’s emotional well-being.
To learn more about the psychological evaluation process in Florida, read the Florida Bar’s “An Anatomy of a Child Custody Evaluation.”
Consult a Boca Raton Child Custody Attorney
At the Law Offices of Schwartz | White, our child custody attorneys are here to help you through the child custody process. Custody cases are emotionally draining enough, but when you are forced to undergo a psychological evaluation, they can be even more so. Our experienced lawyers can guide you through the process and advise you on what to expect at every turn. If you, your former spouse, or the judge has recommended a psychological evaluation, contact our family law firm now to speak with an experienced child custody attorney. To schedule a consultation today, give our offices a call at 561.391.9943.