Child Custody Determined by Psychological Evaluation in San Diego
Custody cases can become complicated affairs filled with numerous he-said-she-said claims and combative perspectives. In order to clarify specific issues, family courts will often issue orders for psychologically-based testing and evaluation for the purposes of helping determine which custodial arrangement would be in a child’s best interest. In these instances, the court may use a child custody evaluator, who may or may not be affiliated with the court, who is qualified to conduct the process.
Psychological evaluations in child custody cases can be conducted on both the child in question and either parent to determine how the court should proceed with custody orders. To ensure your rights are protected throughout these proceedings, you will want to contact Huguenor Mattis, A.P.C. to employ the aid of a skilled San Diego family law attorney. Our legal team can assist with all aspects of your custody case and work with you to protect your relationship with your child. Call us at (858) 458-9500 to discuss your case.
Psychological evaluations are designed to provide a deeper insight into the mental health and wellbeing of parent or child so the family law court can determine what is best for the child. This may result in a modification of custody orders and changes in visitation, depending on the findings of the evaluation and how the court interprets them. There are several types of tests and evaluations a court or the other parent may request, and they are generally based on defining the parent’s personality traits and psychological health, as well as how the child relates to either parent.
Both parents may request an evaluation, however, it will come down to the court to decide if one is necessary. Psychological evaluations are often requested when there is a dispute between either parent about custody arrangements or if the court believes that an evaluation will provide useful recommendations about custody arrangements.
In some cases, the court will request an evaluation if they are concerned about the safety and wellbeing of the child. They will work to keep these evaluations confidential and minimize the invasive nature of the tests into both the child’s and parents’ personal lives, with sensitive familial issues such as financial status, religion, race, gender, values, or other orientations. In addition, the tests cannot be conducted to determine which parent the child would like to live with.
However, the evaluations may also disclose any conflicts of interest that may arise during the proceedings and suspend the proceedings to allow for a resolution of the conflict before resuming the process. Parents can consent to an evaluation as well, however, you should always speak to your attorney before making a decision. Psychological evaluations can be stressful processes and are not always objective. Understanding how to prepare for an evaluation and to conduct yourself during one can significantly impact the results. You will also want to discuss the results with your attorney and point out any instances of bias on part of the evaluator that may have influenced their findings.
When a child custody evaluator’s services are requested by the court, their focus is on keeping the best interests of the child’s health and welfare in consideration throughout the entire process. This means limiting the child’s psychological trauma whenever possible and to explain, based on the child’s age and ability to understand, the evaluation to him or her. They may outline the purpose and goals of the evaluation, while also emphasizing the child’s right to confidentiality.
These testing procedures may vary on a case-by-case basis. However, they generally involve:
- Disclosing any confidentiality limitations or concerns that may exist.
- Reviewing any related past law enforcement or agency records.
- Observing the interactions between the parent and child.
- Interviewing each parent, separately or together.
- Reaching beyond the immediate family for interviews to gather information and observations, such as from siblings, stepparents, etc.
- Consulting with another expert if and when information is introduced that is beyond the evaluator’s expertise, or scope of experience, to accurately assess and interpret such findings.
With regards to the court, the evaluator must prepare the results in clear writing that is geared for the comprehension of a general audience along with a summary about how information is gathered and assessed. This report and its conclusion can include an explanation about:
- How the interpretations and findings relate to the child’s need for development.
- How the child relates with each parent.
- The quality of environment that each parent can provide.
- Any feedback that the child expresses concerning the issues the court is managing.
In addition, the evaluator may also:
- Report the historical parenting arrangement that the child has experienced.
- Report any presence of mental illness, domestic abuse or child abuse, and substance abuse concerns.
- Report on any aspects of the evaluation that were limited as a result of an inability to access the necessary information, lack of cooperation from relevant persons, or other circumstances.
- Provide a temporary or interim custody recommendation if necessary.
Your attorney and you have a right to review these tests and, if necessary, request a re-evaluation or dismissal of the results if it is determined that they are irrelevant or unsubstantiated.
Being involved in a child-custody-related conflict can be stressful and confusing, especially if you are also asked to participate in a psychological evaluation. However, throughout the entire process, you have a right to discuss your case with an experienced San Diego family law attorney. At Huguenor Mattis, A.P.C., our legal team can explain when to request an evaluation, when to consent to one, how to prepare for one, and how to respond to the results. With over four decades of experience, our legal team can provide thorough legal guidance throughout this difficult time and advocate for your best interests in a custody case. For an attorney who will strive to protect the future of your children and your family, make the call to (858) 458-9500.