It is not uncommon in family law cases with children for one party to be concerned with the other party’s mental stability. These concerns can stem from things such as anger and violence, both physical and emotional, from a mental health diagnosis, or from general concerns about the safety of the children when they are alone with the other party. When concerns like these exist, clients often ask for the other person to be psychologically evaluated.
Psychological evaluations of parties are governed by Rule 12.360, and are not automatically ordered by judges upon request. The courts view these types of evaluations as infringing upon people’s privacy, and will only allow them when absolutely necessary. The person requesting these evaluations must prove two things:
- That the person’s mental health is related to a matter in controversy AND
- That there is good cause for the examination.
Like most things in the law, these are very vague and general requirements. However, these requirements have been further explained and defined over the years.
In order to prove that a person’s mental health is related to a matter in controversy, it is best to be able to prove to the court, with competent evidence, that the person’s mental health issues negatively impact his or her ability to parent and provide a safe environment for the children. This would not be something as simple as stating that the person parents with an authoritarian attitude, or yells often. However, a diagnosed mental health disorder and prior Baker Acts would be sufficient. These are the two ends of the spectrum of mental stability impacting parenting, and anything in between would be determined on a case by case basis.
The second prong of the test relates to a concept known as “good cause”. This is a common concept in the law, and generally means having substantial evidence to support a position. In this specific situation, having good cause for the requested psychological evaluation generally requires that the person’s mental health condition cannot be adequately assessed or explored by the court without expert medical testimony. Additionally, it is helpful to be able to prove to the court that the allegations of a mental health issue place the child at risk of abuse, neglect, or abandonment as a result of the parent’s inability to meet the child’s needs.
As you can probably tell, this issue is extremely fact-driven, and case-specific. There is no clear bright-line rule when it comes to determining if or when a psychological evaluation should be ordered in family law cases.If you have questions about divorce, child custody, or another family law matter in South Florida, Robert Sparks Attorneys is here to help. Call or contact