Custody Psychological Evaluations

By Staff Writer

If you are involved in litigation over custody or visitation of your children, you will quickly learn that the Judge is not the only player in your case. To assist the Court in reaching a decision, Judges routinely direct other professionals to meet with the children and evaluate the children, parties and any other relevant individuals.

One type of professional typically involved in contested child custody cases is a child psychologist or other mental health professional. Known commonly as a "psychological evaluation", the report which this professional prepares is actually a custody recommendation. After meeting with the children and any other relevant individuals which the professional deems crucial, such as the parties, their significant others and other individuals present in the homes of the parties and evaluating the parties and children for mental health problems, the mental health professional will prepare a recommendation for the Court.

Mental health professionals rarely work for free. When ordered, the Court must also consider how the evaluation and report will be paid. Depending on the credentials of the professional and the extensiveness of his or her report, the costs of the evaluation and report could be great. The costs of the report are generally divided between the parties in a manner which the Court deems fair and appropriate. You could be directed to pay the entire cost of the evaluation or only a percentage of the total cost.

If you are considering requesting the Court to order a psychological evaluation, or believe that there is a possibility that the Court will order the same, you should investigate local mental health professionals. Courts generally ask the parties to suggest the names of mental health professionals to prepare the evaluation and report. In addition to cost, you should consider factors such as the professional’s credentials, track record, whether or not the professional has testified at trial in the past and the frequency with which the professional prepares such reports. Many mental health professionals who routinely prepare evaluations and reports develop a reputation for deciding a certain way in different cases. While the reputation should never be relied upon to guarantee a favorable report, it could serve to assist you in reaching the decision of who to recommend to the Court.

Courts generally rely strongly upon the custody recommendation of the mental health professional. For that reason, you should speak with your attorney before you are evaluated. Your attorney will be able to prepare you for the evaluation and give you advice on how to present yourself, and your case, in the best possible manner.