Steps Needed to Acquire a Court-Ordered Evaluation

A court-ordered psychiatric evaluation, also known as a mental health evaluation, is used for different types of legal cases. Here’s the procedure on how to get a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation.

No matter the field, a judge may grant or deny a psychiatric evaluation at his or her own discretion. The judge determines whether the specific circumstances of a case warrant a psychiatric evaluation. However, it’s also possible for the plaintiff or the defendant to request the judge for a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation.

Process of a Psychiatric Evaluation

Once approved and ordered, the following procedures will occur during psychiatric evaluation:

  • The court will hire a licensed mental health professional with no affiliation to either party to conduct the assessment.
  • The mental health professional will determine which tests are appropriate for the individual based upon the court’s request.
  • The mental health professional will administer the test he or she deemed fit in order to determine the psychological state of the person.

Related: Psychological Evaluation in California Family Law Cases

The petition filed by the mental health professional is required to have all of the following information:

  • The name and address of the petitioner
  • The petitioner’s interest in the case
  • The name of the person considered to be a danger to others, or to himself, or to be gravely disabled as a result of mental disorder
  • The accused person’s address, age, sex, marital status, and occupation (if known)
  • The facts upon which the allegations of the petition are based
  • The name of every person known (by the petitioner) to be legally responsible for the care, support, and maintenance of the alleged person
  • The address of every known person legally responsible for the care of the alleged person, if known to the petitioner, and
  • Any relevant additional information

Related: How Mental Health Issues Affect Child Custody in California

Types of Psychiatric Evaluations

Three types of clinical psychiatric evaluations are:

  • General psychiatric evaluation
  • Emergency evaluation
  • Clinical consultation

In order to determine mental fitness in court, a mental health professional may use one or more of the following psychiatric evaluations:

  • BPS (Bricklin Perceptual Scales) Test
  • MMPI-2 (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory) Test
  • MCMI-3 (Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory) Test
  • ASPECT (Ackerman-Schoendorf Scales for Parent Evaluation of Custody) Test
  • Thematic Apperception Test, and/or
  • Rorschach Inkblot Test

When is a Court-Ordered Psychiatric Evaluation Needed

California does not require a judge to order a psychiatric evaluation for the defendant. A judge or prosecutor will order a mental health assessment in order to determine if the assessment will reveal the context behind possible causes or factors in the legal charge. Mental health evaluations are used in a wide variety of cases; including child custody and sex crime cases. A judge may be inclined to order a psychiatric evaluation if the defendant has drug or alcohol dependency, previous criminal charges, allegations of child abuse, or a history of mental illness (if the information pertains to the current charges the alleged is facing).

How Long Does a Psychiatric Evaluation Take

Although each case differs, the process of court-ordered psychiatric evaluation may last 60 to 105 minutes, excluding result time. The initial phase lasts about 15 minutes. Participants begin by answering a few questions pertaining to mental health either on paper or on a computer. After the questionnaire is complete, the participants speak with a mental health professional for about 45-90 minutes. Once the session is over, the mental health professional will draft a summary about their observations, whether or not there is an identifiable disorder, and suggested treatments (if applicable). The delay truly depends on the time it takes for the mental health professional to produce the report.

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If you or a loved one would like to learn more about how to get a court-ordered psychological evaluation, get your free consultation with one of our family law attorneys today!