Requesting Therapy or Psychological Assessments During Custody Cases by Cassandra Hearn

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Custody cases address the most important and delicate assets in parents’ lives – their children.  Parents will work as hard as they can during a custody case to make sure that the final order ends up embodying a schedule that is in the best interest of their children.  Because child custody cases are by their very nature a highly emotional and subjective affair, it is sometimes appropriate to request the court order therapy or even a psychological assessment during the case.

Therapy could be a useful request in several respects.  For one, a divorce is not only difficult on the parents, but also on the children.  The children are just as involved in the chaos and uncertainty, and perhaps more so as they have no control over the process whatsoever.  Therapy can help the children to process their feelings and come to grips with the divorce.  If one parent refuses to agree to therapy and the parents have joint legal custody, it may be necessary to file a motion with the court asking to be allowed to seek therapy or psychological treatment for the child over the one parent’s objection.  If the requesting parent can demonstrate the need for therapy and that the therapy is in the child’s best interest, the court may decide to allow the therapy over the objection of the parent.

Psychological assessments are a different issue, and are typically requested when one parent believes the other parent is somehow psychologically unfit to care for the child or make decisions for the child.  When requesting a psychological assessment, a requesting party needs to be prepared to demonstrate an actual need for such a procedure.  The requesting parent should also be prepared to pay for at least half of the cost of the assessment, and may even be ordered to undergo one him or herself.  In situations where one parent has demonstrated instability or even a propensity for substance abuse, a psychological assessment can be an important tool to use to show the court a neutral expert agrees with the concerns about the parent’s ability to function.

Parties should understand that these tools can be used separate and apart from an independent child custody evaluation, which is an evaluation that is ordered pursuant to California Evidence Code 730.  While those evaluations are typically conducted by a psychologist or similar professional, they typically examine a broader range of facts and documents, and will also talk to the child. 

We have extensive experience with helping our clients in cases involving requests for therapy or other assessments. Call us today at 619-800-0384 for a consultation to talk about your case and your children.