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Psychological Testing in Los Angeles Child Custody Cases

Posted by Furman & Zavatsky | Dec 04, 2018

Los Angeles family law courts have the power to order psychological evaluations of parents in a divorce case in which the court is deciding how to award custody to the parents. When determining child custody, the court is concerned with the best interests of the child. In fact, the court has an obligation to act in the best interests of the child involved in a divorce.

Psychological Testing in Child Custody Cases

In some divorce cases, a parent might pose a significant risk to a child due to a mental illness or their psychological instability. If you are considering a divorce and have a reasonable belief your spouse could have some psychological issue that could be dangerous for your child, it's critical to understand your legal options and proper way to approach this sensitive situation.

Psychological testing can play an important role in many divorce cases, even in situations when mental illness is not an obvious concern for either parent. It's important to understand the Los Angeles County family law court needs to make an accurate assessment of the parental abilities of each spouse in order to make a determination whether a parent's current mental state is a safety risk to their child.

The test used by professional child custody evaluators during the divorce process includes the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, Million Clinical Multiaxial Inventory, Thematic Apperception Test, among others. These test are designed to evaluate cognitive functioning and are supposed to identify psychological disorders. It should be noted the Los Angeles family law court judge has the authority to make final decisions on child custody, not the psychological evaluators who administer these test. In many cases, one or both parents are deeply insulted when they learn they have to take a psychological examination to determine their fitness as a parent.

If you have been ordered to undergo psychological testing for a child custody evaluation, you need to consult with the experienced Los Angeles divorce and family law attorneys at Furman & Zavatsky LLP to review the specific details of your situation and provide you with legal advice moving forward. The parent's fitness, or lack thereof, is pertinent as to whether granting the parent custody is in the best interests of the child. If the court believes that a particular parent is unfit, then it is within the court's power to deny granting custody to that parent.

Why Should I Request a Psychological Test?

If you are in a situation where you are considering filing a motion during your divorce process for your spouse to go through a psychological evaluation, it's reasonable to believe they will not be very happy and will seek some form of retribution. It would be a wise to go through an evaluation yourself. The Los Angeles family law courts don't typically cover the cost of psychological testing. Therefore, the judge will make the final decision on how to pay for the cost of psychological evaluations. They could make one parent pay or split the cost between them.

Their decision is normally based on a parent's ability to pay. It should be noted that even at the conclusion of a psychological evaluation, it might not determine there are significant issues that need to be addressed. This means in some situations where you might demand your spouse undergo a psychological evaluation, it could potentially backfire on you and make it appear to the court you are just seeking revenge or just an unreasonable person. In other words, you better have a valid reason to request such testing or you could hurt your own case for child custody.

This is why it's important to consult with our Los Angeles divorce attorneys to review your details and to determine if we would recommend filing a motion for psychological evaluation. If you reasonably suspect your spouse has significant mental health issues that is a risk to the safety of your child, then it's critically important for the court to know about it so they can make a proper child custody determination.

However, as stated above, you better be prepared to undergo the same type of psychological testing and be financially able to handle the related costs. Let's take a closer look at some important related information below.

The 730 Child Custody Evaluation

Psychological testing in divorce cases involving custody is known as a 730 evaluation. Such testing is referred to as a 730 evaluation because of the California Evidence Code Section 730, which authorizes the court to order an expert investigation, including psychological testing. The court can appoint a professional to investigate the mental health of the parent and testify to the court on the parent's fitness. The court can base its child custody decision on the testimony rendered from the expert witness.

Why Might the Court Order Psychological Testing?

A court may order psychological testing of a parent to determine custody if one or more of the following situations arise:

  • A Parent has a History of Mental Health Issues. If a parent has a history of mental health issues that could impact the parent's ability to provide for the well-being of the child, the court may order psychological testing to determine whether the parent is fit to be the custodial parent of the child. Only mental health issues that would make the parent unfit to parent should be considered.
  • Drug and Alcohol Abuse. If a parent has a history of drug and/or alcohol abuse, the court may order psychological testing. Often drug and alcohol abuse may be symptoms or causes of mental health issues. A parent that is currently abusing drugs or alcohol may often be deemed unfit by the court. If you believe your child's other parent is hiding drug or alcohol abuse and should not have custody, inform the court of your suspicion so that an investigation may take place.
  • Child Abuse. If the court has reason to believe the parent is abusing the child, the court may order psychological testing. A court is at all times concerned with the child's best interests, and if there is any hint of child abuse, the court will investigate. If it finds abuse is occurring, it will deny custody to the parent that is abusing the child.

Who Performs the Psychological Testing?

If a court orders psychological testing of a parent to determine custody, the court will direct a certain professional to perform the psychological testing. The professional will usually be a court-contracted medical professional such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or therapist.

Generally, the court will appoint the professional, but the court will also entertain suggestions from both parents, and if both parents agree on a professional, the court may choose that professional without further consideration.

What are the qualifications to be a court appointed investigator to perform psychological testing? The California Family Code Section 3110 outlines the requirements to be a court-appointed investigator, including a professional who performs psychological testing on parents seeking custody of a minor child. Among other requirements, the professional must be licensed in his or her profession and must have undergone domestic violence and child abuse training.

The Psychological Test

The court-qualified investigator will often perform a home visit and interview the parent and the minors in the home. The investigator will also interview the other parent and any relatives and other members of the public that may have insight into the psychological well-being of the parent. This can include school officials, daycare workers, the police, and work colleagues of the parent. The investigation may involve any other interviews that may reveal signs of mental unfitness that would cause harm to the minor child if the parent were to be given custody of the child.

Contact Our Los Angeles Child Custody Attorneys to Review Your Case

If a court has ordered that you undergo psychological testing before being awarded custody of your child, or if you want your child's other parent to undergo psychological testing, then it is important to consult with a child custody attorney at Furman & Zavatsky LLP.

We will guide you through the process and make sure that your rights as a parent are not jeopardized. If you are seeking custody of your child, it is important to have skilled legal representation. Your child's well-being is at stake and we can help. Call our Los Angeles child custody attorneys at 818-528-3471 or use our online form.

Furman & Zavatsky LLP
Los Angeles Divorce and Family Law Attorneys
15821 Ventura Blvd #690
Encino, CA 91436

Related Resources:
Focusing on the “Best Interests” of the Child
California Child Custody Evaluation Information Sheet

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