Do you think that your child’s other parent is emotionally or psychologically unfit to care for your child? Are you afraid that your child is at risk of harm because of a parent’s mental health condition? Whether you are in the middle of getting a divorce, have never been married, or have been separated for years, you have the right to make sure that your child is safe. In California, you have the right to request psychological testing in your child custody hearing.
Considering the Best Interests of a Child
Courts are required to determine a child custody arrangement that serves the best interests of the child. In most cases, this will mean awarding joint physical custody and keeping children in frequent and continuing contact with both parents. However, if courts have reason to believe that awarding custody to a particular parent would pose a risk to the health, safety, or well-being of a child they will deviate from this norm.
When a parent’s psychological, emotional, or mental health is questioned, courts may order specific tests to determine if that parent is, in fact, fit to have custody of their child. Courts may be inclined to order psychological testing if a parent has:
- Erratic and unexplained mood swings;
- Questionable or unorthodox parenting techniques that put the child at risk of harm;
- Substance abuse problems; or
- Documented mental health issues.
In addition to these indicators, courts may also order psychological testing if a parent is accused of child and/or domestic abuse.
Requesting a 730 Evaluation
When you believe that your child’s other parent has a psychological condition that prevents them from caring for your child you can formally request a psychological evaluation. This psychological evaluation, which is also known as a 730 Evaluation, will not automatically be granted by a judge. If you request the evaluation you must be able to support your request with evidence. Evidence that may be helpful in persuading the judge that your child’s other parent has a psychological issue includes:
- Reports from social workers or medical professionals;
- Prior psychological evaluations; and/or
- Witness testimony.
If the court grants your request, the 730 Evaluation will be conducted by an independent and unbiased custody evaluator. These custody evaluators are specially trained to administer tests to parents involved child custody disputes and must have at least 5 years of practical experience. In most cases, a custody evaluator will be a psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker.
Psychological Testing and Results
The custody evaluator will administer a series of protocols that will determine if the parent has any underlying psychological issues. These protocols are designed to test various aspects of a parent’s emotional, mental, and psychological well-being. Tests that are commonly conducted in a 730 Evaluation include the:
- Thematic Apperception Test (TAT);
- ASPECT (Ackerman-Shcoedorf Scales for Parent Evaluation of Custody Test);
- BPS (Bricklin Perceptual Scales); and
- Rorschach Inkblot Test.
Once the custody evaluator has administered the tests and reviewed the results, they will present their findings to the court. The court will review the evidence in front of them and decide whether or not the parent’s mental state should affect their right to custody or visitation. It is important to know that a parent’s right to custody and/or visitation will not automatically be denied or revoked simply because the tests indicate that they may have mental health issues. A court has the discretion to consider the results of the test in conjunction will all of the other evidence in the matter. However, courts will strongly consider any results that indicate a parent may have mental health or psychological issues that could potentially put a child at risk of harm.
Things to Consider When Requesting Psychological Testing
Just because someone is afflicted with a mental health or psychological issue does not mean that they are automatically unfit to be a parent. Many conditions are treatable with diet, therapy, and medication. Parents who commit to a course of treatment have a greater chance of retaining custody of their children, even if psychological tests indicate that they have a problem.
It is also important to be prepared to undergo psychological testing, yourself. Courts will be more inclined to have both parents submit to testing to make sure that there are no threats to a child’s safety, health, or well-being. If you do not want to be tested you may want to think twice before asking the court to examine your child’s other parent.
Los Angeles Child Custody Attorneys
Do you think your child’s other parent is suffering from a psychological condition that puts your child at a risk of harm? Call the child custody lawyers at Berenji & Associates today to learn more about how you can request psychological testing in your Los Angeles child custody case. We will explain the steps involved in making this request and answer any questions you have. We offer a free consultation, so do not hesitate to call us today.