Courts are hesitant to believe that one parent has mental health, physical health, or any other issues that may affect his or her ability to parent based on the testimony of the other parent alone. Some problems are easy to see and identify, such as alcoholism or physical abuse, but mental abuse can be harder to show and much harder to prove.
In order to successfully present evidence regarding mental health issues as they affect the children, it is often necessary to engage the services of a forensic psychologist.
Forensic psychologists can do many things, including treatment, but they also perform two specialized tasks specifically for divorce and custody cases – psychological evaluations and custodial evaluations.
Ohio Civil Rule 35 allows for courts to order the physical and mental examination of a person. This is the rule that permits the “psychological evaluation.” Your spouse would be ordered to submit to testing and interview by a forensic psychologist. The psychologist would then prepare a report of what psychological issues your spouse has that may affect his ability to parent.
A “custodial evaluation” is far more in depth. Ohio Revised Code § 3109.04(C) allows the court to order your spouse, you, and your children to submit to psychological testing and interview by a forensic psychologist. In a custodial evaluation, the psychologist is the court’s witness. The psychologist will be able to identify all psychological issues within the family and then, because she or he has interviewed everybody, will be able to make a recommendation as to custody, parenting time, or any other allocation or parental rights and responsibilities.
The evaluations are powerful, and sometimes expensive tools, but are worth considering if your family has serious custody issues which a court might not understand without the help of an expert.