A child custody and visitation case involving a request by a parent to have her spouse psychologically evaluated was recently decided by the Florida Court of Appeal. 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. “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 fact that parties are contesting time-sharing (custody and visitation), does not, in and of itself, warrant a psychological evaluation. 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.