I spoke to a parent the other day who said they and their attorney wanted to obtain a psych evaluation on the other parent. The parent felt sure the psych evaluation would show that the other parent was a narcissist. And this would surely solve all their problems dealing with custody. That they would prevail as the primary parent if not full custody of the children.
I explained that the majority of the population is thought to have some sort of diagnosis and in my experience, the court was not going to take or limit custody based on this issue alone where no other severe circumstances were present.
I find that this parent like so many others are often encouraged to enter into costly and time-consuming testing like psych evaluations and other scenarios in an attempt to gain an advantage in divorce and custody issues. Often resulting in heartbreaking results for everyone involved especially children who lose the ability to have both parents in their lives when there are no mitigating circumstances.
Not to mention the costs and delays to the entire divorce process itself. The contested litigation, aggravation, and anger that often result in years of bitter communications and resentment impacting the parent’s future relationship and that of the children is another issue.
The children in this scenario were young so this parent is likely going to be in this for the long haul. Which means that they need to conserve their monies for the real battles that would follow after the divorce was granted, the property and assets were divided and they had what would be the first of many custody orders. What I call the foreplay stage to the real costs and litigation when custody is involved.
Are their exceptions to this scenario. Of course. The exceptional attorney, the rare psych evaluation, the perfect storm scenario as I call it. However, in my experience psych evaluations do not warrant the time, money or distraction that comes with the numerous court dates, trials, experts, and other documents required even after the report is issued. Especially when the evaluation does not come back the way it was expected.
Never mind the Constitutional argument that is now being waged against psych evaluations by Ron and Sherry Palmer from Fix Family Courts in their training with professionals and parents. After all, we don’t require parents to take psych evaluations to become parents. Aren’t we in fact, placing an unfair burden on parents of divorce as though they are somehow lesser citizens by virtue of their divorce requiring them to take psych evaluations in order to be part of their children’s lives?
If a parent has the evidence of multiple mandatory psych holds on the other parent because they were a risk to themselves, others or the children; or there have been numerous suicide attempts with hospitalization due to the injuries; or numerous psych facilities commitments on a voluntary basis, etc that may be a far better use of time and money in court than that spent on a psych evaluation and less open to interpretation.
So I ask as divorce professionals are we doing a disservice to parents to recommend psych evaluations? Especially in cases where we know they are going to be involved in Family Law for the long haul, have limited funds or any other number of other scenarios.