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Psychological assessment of parents in custody cases

What is involved in seeking a psychological assessment of the other parent, and what impact does it have on the outcome?

My ex and I have had a 50/50 arrangement for 12 months, but with no orders in place. The outcome of our mediation with FRC was that we would trial a new combination of days. However, it's simply not working. He is extremely verbally abusive and is always willing to use the girls to get at me, or threaten to take them off me if I disagree with him on a completely unrelated topic (such as whether or not I should change my name). He will often say no for no other reason than it was me that asked the question. He is openly hostile towards me in front of the kids. I am seeking primary care, and we are just about to file the application in the FMC.

I feel like I am being melodramatic even saying this, but I have plenty of reason to believe that he may be a sociopath. My solicitor has mentioned the possibility of psychological assessment as an off-hand comment before.

Does anyone have experience with this as a factor in the custody orders that are granted? Does the solicitor just have to apply to the court to order an assessment? If it came back that he actually had this nasty and mostly untreatable condition, what kind of custody order might a court make to balance keeping the children out of harm's way, yet giving them the opportunity to have a meaningful relationship with their dad?
Hi ReadyforaFight

Our trial got adjourned so that my ex and I could both be assessed by a psychiatrist.  All that that entailed was each of us having an appointment with the psychiatrist and telling our story basically.  She then wrote a really long report that basically said that my ex was controlling as he was etc but said that we were both sane.  Her final comment was that it was her opinion that our case would come down to who the children were closest to.  Once I read that statement I knew that there was no way I would lose my children as they are definitely much closer to me (as to be expected when the father has played an even less than part time dad to our children)  We too were doing week on week off and my ex said it was not working (because he wanted 100%)   From my experience both the psychiatrist and the family report writer were able to see exactly what the true was in our case.

As for you initiating that your ex be assessed I don't know anything about the legalities of that but just thinking logically I have no idea how you could make someone else do it.  I would have thought the Judge would be the only one to initiate it. 

Good luck with your case.
Check this case out.

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/FMCAfam/2009/959.html

Relevant extract below:

The father's application that the mother be psychiatrically assessed

  1. The father applied for an order that the mother be psychiatrically assessed. The father's counsel said that the assessment would cost $1,650.00 and that the father was willing to pay for the assessment, an offer which sat somewhat oddly with his claim that he could not afford to pay maintenance.The mother opposed an order that she be subjected to a psychiatric assessment unnecessarily, although her counsel said that she was willing to co-operate in the process if ordered to do so.The mother has no history of involvement with mental health services. The father's application was based on his layman's opinion that the mother's behaviour during and after the relationship, together with entries in her personal diary, suggested that she was suffering from narcissistic personality disorder or anti-social personality disorder.The father's use of the mother's personal diary is an action capable of causing long lasting damage to the relationship between the parties. only time will tell if the father was justified in making use of the diary. The entries on which the father placed weight suggest that the mother has issues about her relationship with her parents and about her sibling relationships, but there is nothing in the entries to immediately suggest that the mother needs to be examined by a psychiatrist.It would be dangerous for me to assume that mother's actions post separation in unilaterally relocating [X], in initially proposing that the father have supervised time only and in proposing sole parental responsibility and in being resistant to [X] returning to Darwin were signs that the mother is suffering from a mental illness.I cannot place any weight on the father's opinion about psychiatric disorders from which the mother may be suffering.I do not intend to order that the mother submit to a psychiatric assessment. A Family Report has been ordered and if the family report writer considers that a psychiatric assessment of one or both of the parties would assist, the matter can be reconsidered after the release of the family report.
This is a very delicate area I suffer from PTSD and did so for the last 3 years of my former relationship. It was never a problem whilst we were together, nor whilst I had our children until my ex moved interstate. As it is going through the courts now as I expected it is been used against me. I was honest and put the condition in my affidavit. I won't go into great detail but my ex is demanding frequent letters of mental state from a psychiatrist. I don't believe this is necessary and am requesting 1 letter outlining my mental state. Which is quite good actually
Good idea to bring your own letter Roosters. Based on the case I extracted above I reckon if all your ex has got is a diagnosis (which you haven't tried to hide), and your treating doctor says it's not a problem, a court would be unlikely to insist you be assessed by another psych. Psychiatrists and psychologists are bound by so many ethical obligations that if there was in their mind ANY risk to the kids etc then they'd have to say so, so a clearance letter from them is just gold.

PS. Not to be nosy but please make sure you keep seeing your doctor throughout this court process, preferably shortly after each hearing/mention. PTSD makes awful things like family law disputes even harder to bear, or so my clients tell me.
roosters_64 said
This is a very delicate area I suffer from PTSD and did so for the last 3 years of my former relationship. It was never a problem whilst we were together, nor whilst I had our children until my ex moved interstate. As it is going through the courts now as I expected it is been used against me. I was honest and put the condition in my affidavit. I won't go into great detail but my ex is demanding frequent letters of mental state from a psychiatrist. I don't believe this is necessary and am requesting 1 letter outlining my mental state. Which is quite good actually
 
This is why we put the information in your affidavit; honesty pays! Your ex comes across as 'less than truthful' - you do not.

And please keep going to the doctor as said earlier.

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on the site (Look for the Avatars).   Be mindful what you post in the public areas. 
You need to have total faith that your ex has a mental illness before you try this. My ex accused me of having a mental illness (quite specifically) on no less than 3 occasions, pushed for an assessment saying the children weren't safe in my care trying to get residency and now it has blown up in his face as my GP and the assesser who was choosen by him too all said I had no signs of any mental illness.

so be warned it's not an avenue to go down unless you know for sure.
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