What You Need to Know About Psychological Evaluation in California Family Law Cases

If a parent is concerned about the safety of their child because of a co-parent’s mental wellbeing, they always have the option to request a psychological evaluation from the court. Here’s what you need to know about a psychological evaluation in California family law cases.

Psychological evaluations are made to determine the mental fitness of a parent and, thus, their ability to properly care for a child. Psychological evaluations are used as a tool within the court to help determine custody. Although it is not the only factor the court considers when investigation a custody case, it is a significant part of the final custody decision.

What to Expect From a Court-Ordered Psychological Evaluation

A court-ordered psychological evaluation, also called a 730 Evaluation, takes an assessment of the mental health of a parent that is seeking custody of a child. Its purpose is to prioritize the health and safety of the child, by evaluating the mental fitness of the parent and then determining their ability to protect and support the child.

Those conducting the 730 evaluations are unbiased third-party mental health professionals with at least five years of experience diagnosing mental disorders. Commonly, the evaluators will be psychiatrists, psychologists, or social workers. The courts require this level of knowledge and experience to ensure accurate evaluations of the parent’s mental wellbeing.

Related: 730 Child Custody Evaluation in California

Here is how a psychological evaluation will unfold once ordered:

1. The court will approve the request for a psychological evaluation of the parent(s).
2. The court will hire a qualified mental health professional, who is also an unbiased third party, to conduct the evaluation.
3. The evaluator will review the details of the psychological evaluation request and determine which relevant tests are to be conducted.
4. The evaluator will conduct any relevant tests they deem necessary to determine the mental fitness of the parent(s).

Some tests that may be included are:

  • Rorschach Inkblot Test
  • Thematic Apperception Test
  • ASPECT (Ackerman-Schoedorf Scales for Parent Evaluation of Custody) Test
  • MMPI-2 (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory) Test
  • MCMI-3 (Million Clinical Multiaxial Inventory) Test
  • BPS (Bricklin Perceptual Scales) Test

The evaluator will review the results of the evaluation and present their conclusions to the court.

When to Motion for Psychological Evaluation in Your Family Law Case

A child’s safety and well-being should always be the priority. If a parent feels like their co-parent’s serious mental and/or psychological issues present a significant threat to the health and safety of their child, they should consider requesting a psychological evaluation. Keeping in mind that the requesting parent will likely be evaluated too, the parent should weigh the benefits that the evaluation results may have in their child’s life. If the outcome of the evaluation may help protect the child’s well-being and ensure their safety, it may be worth motioning for in family court.

Who Can Request a Court-Ordered Psychological Evaluation

A court-ordered psychiatric evaluation can be requested by three different parties: one of the two parents involved in the case, the judge, or the mediator (if it is a divorce arbitration).

Every parent in a family law case has the right to request a psychological evaluation of the co-parent. However, it is important to note that, if one parent requests a psychiatric evaluation, often they will be evaluated as well. It is quite common for both parents to be evaluated if the mental health of one parent is already in question.

A mediator is an impartial third party that is hired to help divorcing couples work together to agree and finalize the details of their divorce. A mediator assists both individuals separately and does not make any decisions on behalf of either party, they are intended to stay neutral and only help in moving the divorce along. However, a mediator does have the right to request the psychiatric evaluation of one or both parents.

Related: Divorce Mediation FAQs in California

Additionally, a judge may also request a psychiatric evaluation of one or both parents. A judge may be prompted to request this evaluation after considering these factors:

  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Previous criminal charges
  • Allegations of child abuse
  • Questionable or unreliable parenting behaviors
  • History of mental illness and/or psychological issues

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If you have any more questions about a psychological evaluation in California family law cases, contact us. We’ll get you in touch with the most qualified attorney for your unique legal matter. Get your free consultation with one of our Child Custody Attorneys in California today!