Just like in Connecticut, Louisiana’s family law courts will now provide mental health evaluations in child custody proceedings. A new house bill will require courts to appoint a neutral mental health professional to evaluate cases that involve alleged access rights. That evaluation will help judges decide on child custody issues and place children with the most appropriate parent.
If you are undergoing a child custody battle with an ex-partner in Connecticut, a court-ordered mental health evaluation can prove you are the most suitable person to look after your children. Working with a reputable family law attorney can prepare you for this evaluation and help you navigate the complexities of the Connecticut legal system.
Louisiana’s New House Bill, Explained
At the beginning of June, House Bill 272 passed Lousiana’s House Chambers with a 94-0 vote. The new bill will allow judges in family courts in the state to request a mental health evaluation of both parents and their children in child custody cases. These evaluations must be undertaken by a neutral mental health professional with at least a master’s degree and experience in custody cases, such as a qualified psychologist, counselor, or social worker.
Louisiana’s new bill is similar to the one already in effect here in Connecticut, where family courts require a mental health specialist to evaluate both parties involved in custody battles and their children. The purpose of these evaluations is for professionals to collect information about and from each party (and their child or children) for a judge to consider when making a custody order or ruling. Evaluations do not happen in every custody case in Connecticut. However, they can be valuable for decision-making and ensuring the most appropriate parent wins access rights. Typically, Connecticut’s Family Services Unit or a private mental health professional evaluates both parents and their children.
What Happens During a Mental Health Evaluation in Connecticut?
The Family Services Unit or a forensic psychologist will carry out a mental health evaluation after receiving instructions from the court or an agreement of the parties. During an evaluation, the specialist will meet with you and your partner at your home (or respective homes) and talk to your child or children. She will often perform psychological testing on you, your spouse and your children. A professional might even consult with your and your ex-partner’s doctors, as well as your child or children’s doctors and teachers. By talking to these people, a professional can evaluate you and your ex-partner’s mental health and provide recommendations to the judge overseeing your family law matter.
In some cases, a mental health professional might decide that your ex-partner is responsible for cruelty or neglect as a result of a mental health condition. The professional will pass this information to a family court judge who will likely rule your case in your favor and grant you full child custody rights. In other cases, a professional might decide your ex-partner is mentally stable, causing a judge to split custody rights or even award rights in their favor. That’s why it’s particularly important to consult with a reputable family law attorney in these scenarios so you can prepare additional evidence that proves you are the most appropriate parent for child custody.
What are the Benefits of a Mental Health Evaluation in Family Court?
The purpose of a court-imposed evaluation is not to ‘blame’ your ex-partner if they are experiencing mental health issues. Instead, the findings of an evaluation can prove you are the most suitable parent for looking after your children after a divorce or separation and help you win your case.
You might worry about a mental health professional, someone you don’t know, visiting your home and talking to your children about personal issues, especially emotionally triggering ones. However, an evaluation will only help your case if you believe your ex-partner suffers from mental health issues and cannot responsibly look after your children after a divorce or separation. Without an evaluation, it might be difficult to prove that your ex-partner is incapable of caring for your children all or some of the time.
Why You Should Use a Family Law Attorney During a Child Custody Battle
As previously mentioned, a judge might not require a mental health evaluation in all family law cases. However, working with an experienced attorney can convince a judge to instruct a professional to evaluate your ex-partner if you believe they have mental health issues that make them incapable of looking after your children. Your attorney can prepare a motion that describes why an evaluation should take place based on your ex-partner’s behavior and present it to the court. Note: It can be difficult to construct such a motion without an attorney and encourage a judge to order an evaluation.
A mental health evaluation might seem like a scary experience, but it can provide the court with the information required to solve and settle your family law dispute. Working with a reputable family law attorney in Connecticut will help you prepare for an evaluation and provide ongoing support during this emotionally difficult time.
Rich Rochlin has practiced law for nearly 22 years. Call (860) 357-5003 or click here to learn more.