Child Custody Factor #7. The mental and physical health of the parents.
In child custody cases where one parent may have a mental health concern, you can request a psychological evaluation of the parent. It is important to clearly define the reason for the referral in writing for an effective evaluation.
The evaluator will conduct a clinical interview of the parent and often make behavioral observations of the parent with the child. It is essential to provide the evaluator with a list of collateral contacts of individuals with pertinent information and copies of relevant documents such as Court pleadings, police reports, background reports, previous mental health records, etc.
The evaluator will use a series of assessment instruments (tests with internal validity) such as the parent-child relationship inventory, the multiphasic personality inventory and the child abuse potential inventory, to assess the parent’s mental health and ability to parent. The particular tests conducted depend upon the details of the specific referral. Each test has known limitations of evaluation that should be considered.
The data from the assessment instruments, case history information, in-person interview with the parent, interviews with collateral witnesses, behavioral observations and in-home observations are compiled together by the psychologist who will then prepare detailed conclusions and child custody recommendations for the Court to consider.
When presenting evidence of the other parent’s mental health to the Court, it is important to focus on how the parent’s mental health interferes with his or her ability to parent. Preparing an on-point child custody journal can provide your divorce or paternity attorney with critical information.
The physical health of the parent is less often addressed in family Court. It is only generally relevant if the parent has a physical health condition that interferes with the parent’s ability to parent. Even if a parent has a physical health issue such as the effects of a debilitating stroke, Courts still often desire to seek to maintain a close continuing relationship between the child and that parent. Often strong family and friend networks can be established to help make it possible.
To learn more, check out other Factors Judges Consider for Child Custody Determinations.