Psychologist & Child Custody Evaluators in Florida
Custody evaluations by a psychologist that specialize in the mental health of children are very common in custody cases. Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure provide for evaluation of parents and children by a psychologist or mental health professional.
The Best Practice is to Use a Court Appointed Psychologist
An evaluation by a psychologist appointed by the court as opposed to a psychologist that you or your spouse hire is highly recommended. Why? The judge in most cases will be skeptical of an psychologist you hired. If you have paid the expert a high fee then the judge may be skeptical that your hired expert will make recommendations more in your favor. In turn, the court appointed psychologist will have access to all family members or any other person they deem necessary for their evaluation. (aunts, uncles, teachers, baby sitters, etc).
Also, the judge will give the court appointed psychologist’s recommendations much more weight. This of course can work in your favor or not, so it is important to give the psychologist (evaluator) as much access as they request and always be cooperative.
A psychologist who has been appointed by the court to:
- develop a parenting plan recommendation in a dissolution of marriage
- a case of domestic violence
- paternity matter involving the relationship of a child and a parent, including time-sharing of children
The psychologist can then make recommendations to the court about what is in the best interest of the child.
The psychologist who has been appointed by the court is presumed to be acting in good faith. The court will allow the psychologist’s recommendations if it determines that it meets the standards that ‘reasonable psychologist would use to develop a parenting plan recommendation.’
Forensic Psychological Testing
In a custody battle chances are you have had a child custody evaluator or mental health professional evaluate you in relation to how you parent your child. You may have had what is called a Forensic Psychological Test. Psychological testing is a tool that is supposed to provide additional information about your parenting skills and abilities.
Unfair or Biased Forensic Psychologist Report
If you feel like the psychologist has not been fair or reasonable or bias you can file a legal action and petition the court to assign a new psychologist. You must show good cause for the change. This involves closely evaluating the forensic psychologist’s report. When evaluating a forensic psychologist’s report it is not enough for your family law attorney to be familiar with the Family Law Rules of Procedure and Chapter 61.
To conduct an effective cross examination, your lawyer must also have a thorough understanding of Florida Administrative Code § 64B19-18.007. This code section cannot be ignored as it governs the scope and methodology a psychologist is required to follow when conducting a court ordered parenting plan evaluation.