A parent involved in a child custody and visitation dispute may be required to submit to a psychological evaluation when his or her mental condition is in controversy and good cause is shown for the examination. Seeking custody and visitation, in and of itself, does not put a parent’s psychological condition in controversy. The parent requesting that a psychological evaluation be performed on the other parent must prove that the other parent has mental health issues that could significantly impact on his or her ability to care for the parties’ children. There must be evidence that the alleged mental health condition causes the other parent to be unable to meet the needs of the parties’ children.
In a case captioned Ludwigsen v. Ludwigsen, the Florida Court of Appeal stated that in order for a psychological evaluation to be required by a Court, the party submitting the request must demonstrate that: (i) the condition for which the examination is being sought is in controversy, and (ii) that good cause exists to order the examination. In order for a condition to be “in controversy”, a parent’s mental condition must be directly involved in the determination of the issue that is currently before the Court. The Florida Court of Appeal stated in Ludwigsen v. Ludwigsen that “good cause” is shown where a parent has been unable to meet the needs of the parties’ children.
The requesting party must provide the trial court with verified allegations that the other parent has a mental condition that substantially affects his or her ability to raise their children, or that a parent has been unable to meet their children’s needs. This can be accomplished by demonstrating that the other parent’s mental illness places the children at risk of abuse, abandonment or neglect. The issue is not whether a parent has demonstrated good or bad parenting. The Court is looking for an indicator of significant mental illness that affect the wellbeing of the children. The requesting party is also required to demonstrate to the Court that expert testimony is required to resolve the child-related issue that is before the Court.
The Order requiring a parent to submit to a psychological examination must clearly set forth the parameters of the evaluation, including its scope, length, manner and type of testing. The Order must also identity the person or persons who are permitted to conduct the evaluation.
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