Psychological Evaluation

A Psychological Evaluation is a procedure, typically carried out as part of a court proceeding, in which a mental health professional is appointed by the court to determine a diagnosis or label for a person's psychology, behavior or personality and to make recommendations which a judge can take into account when making a ruling.

It's very common, especially in disputed custody cases for one party (or both!) to accuse the other of having a mental illness. Don't be surprised if your soon-to-be-ex accuses you of having some of the same issues that you see in them.

To deal with this, courts normally refer cases in which the psychological health of one or both of the individuals is called into question to a psychological evaluator.

A psychological evaluator is usually a practicing psychologist who is viewed as an objective third party whose job it is to determine the mental health of both parties and make appropriate recommendations to the court.

It is normally not the job of any marriage counselor or therapist involved in the family to make a recommendation to the court. They can be called as witnesses or be interviewed by the psychological evaluator or custody evaluator but only if permission is given by the parties involved to release their medical records and waive their therapist-patient confidentiality. In most cases therapists' testimony is not seen as objective as that of a court-appointed psychologist.

The vast majority of claims and accusations referred to psychological evaluators during divorce cases are unsubstantiated by the evaluators.

However, it is common for psychological evaluators to find "something" wrong with everybody. Nobody is perfect - or to be more accurate - very few people are "completely average". Most of us have our own lists of issues, quirks, phobias and prejudices and fall outside the popular averages on one count or another. Psychological evaluators are pre-disposed to reportsomething about everybody they evaluate in order to justify their own (often substantial) paycheck.

However, what really matters in a psychological evaluation is how our mental make-up affects the safety,, stability and general well-being of the children involved.

Therefore the evaluator is looking for issues which may be significantly detrimental to the children - not our own emotional or social vulnerabilities.

Normally a psychological evaluation will be done in two parts. the evaluator will want to interview the parties involved. The evaluator may ask each parent to bring the children into the office to observe their interactions and behaviors while playing a game or other activity. The evaluator may also wish to observe the children on their own as well as with both parents.

The evaluator will also normally perform formal psychological tests on the parents. the most common of these is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (or MMPI) in which you are asked to answer a large number of multiple choice questions and are scored on a number of scales See MMPI Info.