Massachusetts Legal Blog
How Psych Evaluations Impact Custody Cases
Custody battles can get ugly, even if the parents were in a good relationship leading up to their divorce. Your case can easily go from cordial conversations about splitting holiday breaks to angry fights about finances and parental responsibilities. It is not uncommon for one parent to drag a mental illness into the argument, often calling out the other parent’s capabilities and mental stability.
It can be truly distressing if that parent demands a psychological evaluation and threatens to drag the issue into a courtroom.
What Is a Psychological Evaluation?
In the context of a family law case, a psychological evaluation is an objective analysis by a trained professional who is tasked by the court with determining if one or both parents are fit to raise a child. While not uncommon, evaluations are typically only requested if the court believes that a parent is a danger to their child. The evaluation may seek to identify abusive behavior, a history of neglect, or substance abuse issues.
Psychological evaluations can include a variety of different tests that look at a person’s “parental fitness.” However, some evaluators limit their approach to only meeting with the parent and child individually, rather than visiting a parent’s home, taking in outside opinions, or observing parent-child interactions.
Remember, Massachusetts family law courts will uphold the best interest of the child over everything else. If the court thinks a parent’s mental illness could create an unsafe environment for a child, then they can restrict access to that child, often denying custody or only granting supervised visitation. If your child’s other parent is threatening you with a psych evaluation, then you should take it very seriously.
How Should I Respond to a Psych Evaluation?
Your ex cannot force you to take a psych evaluation, but he or she can petition a Massachusetts family law court to demand one. The court can also request one independent of any accusations from either parent if it suspects a parent is unfit to raise a child. If court-ordered, you may have to comply with the evaluation or face the risk of being held in contempt of court. However, you should first speak to an experienced Boston child custody attorney to discuss your rights and options.
Psychological evaluations are not foolproof and do not make the final decision in your custody case – that is left up to the presiding judge. But your attorney may be able to present counter-evidence to the evaluator, including witness testimony from friends and family members, psychological and medical records from your physician, and other expert opinions to support your psychological fitness as a parent. If there is good cause, we may also be able to request a separate evaluation for your child’s other parent.
Speak to a Boston Family Law Attorney Today
Nothing is scarier than the prospect of losing your child, especially based on false accusations. The nature of your mental illness should remain between you and your physician, but an angry ex can easily bring it up in a courtroom and put your relationship with your child at risk. When this occurs, it is important to have an experienced Boston divorce attorney at your side to protect your rights.
At DiBella Law Offices, P.C., we provide compassionate and thorough legal representation in all family law matters, including contentious custody battles. If you bring your case to us, our lead attorney can use his more than 15 years of experience to diligently review your case and advocate for your best interests in court. You are more than welcome to read our clients’ testimonials and learn how we have represented families throughout Boston. When you are ready, call us at (617) 870-0907 to schedule a free consultation.
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