Evaluations of Children of Divorce

Most people who are facing divorce proceedings which involve children become concerned over the well-being of their children, and wonder how the divorce process might impact them. People often ask whether a psychological evaluation of a minor child is appropriate, or even possible. There are two legal principles that allow for a psychological evaluation of a child. One is Florida Statutes Section 61.20, which only applies when a Parenting Plan cannot be agreed upon between the parties, and an evaluation is needed to assist in the establishment of a Parenting Plan. This is most commonly used method for obtaining a psychological evaluation in a divorce case, and is typically done before a Parenting Plan is established.

The other basis is Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.360, which allows for a psychological evaluation of a party, or person who is under a party’s control (a minor child), but only if the following two things can be proven:

1. The mental health of the child is in controversy (which has been defined by the case law to mean that it must directly involve a material element of the cause of action) and

2. Good cause can be shown for the requested evaluation (which has been defined by the case law to mean that expert medical testimony is necessary to resolve the issue)

Psychological evaluations are not automatic in any case, including family law cases. The burden of proving these two things is high because courts believe that mental health evaluations can be intrusive into a person’s privacy, and are generally considered to be a burden on the non-moving party. This is especially true when a person being evaluated is a child. Conclusory allegations alone are not sufficient to meet the burden required to obtain an evaluation. The best way to determine if a psychological evaluation is appropriate in your divorce case is to consult with an experienced family law attorney, who can guide you through the entire process, as well as explain all of the options available to you.