Types of Evaluations in Custody Cases Volume 3: Other Types of Evaluations

In two prior posts, I discussed court and private custody evaluations. But a few of the other types of evaluations in contested custody cases are:

Psychological Evaluations:

A psychological evaluation provides a psychological profile of a parent, based on a parent interview, review of prior psychological records and other requested documents, and – most importantly – psychological tests of the parent. A psychological evaluation’s purpose is to identify a parent’s mental health diagnoses and disorders, as well as to make treatment recommendations. A psychological evaluation gives insight into mental health’s impact on parenting, but does not go as far as assessing total parent fitness or providing custody recommendations. A custody evaluator may recommend psychological testing as part of the custody evaluation.

Drug/Alcohol Assessment and Testing:

A parent battling addiction can (or may be ordered to) submit to a drug or alcohol assessment. This is often self-reported and is used to gauge whether a parent’s use of drugs or alcohol amounts to an addiction. The result of an assessment may include behavior and treatment recommendations. Drug/alcohol testing, on the other hand, involves a parent submitting for lab work of various types to determine if the parent has used drugs, alcohol, or any other substances tested.

Medical Evaluation:

A parent may be required to submit to an independent medical examination if he or she has a medical condition that impact his/her ability to parent, to assess whether the parent requires “supportive parenting services”. For example, under Maryland law, Family Law §9-107, the court is required to assess the impact of a parent’s disability (such as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of an individual’s major life activities) on a child’s best interests. If there is an impact, the court can then consider if supportive parenting services (services that may assist an individual with a disability in the effective use of techniques and methods to enable the individual to discharge the individual’s responsibilities to a child as successfully as an individual who does not have a disability, including nonvisual techniques for individuals who are blind), would mitigate the disability’s impact on the child’s best interests. If a parent’s medical condition is disputed and no other expert opinion available, an independent medical examination may be appropriate.

Psychosexual Risk Assessment:

This type of assessment may be sought when a parent has engaged in problematic sexual behavior (whether criminally charged or not), to diagnose, assess risk of recurrence/reoffending, and recommend a treatment and safety plan.

Of Children:

These may encompass psychological or medical evaluations of a child to diagnose and develop a plan for unaddressed mental and/or physical health issues. Additionally, children may undergo educational and psychoeducational testing to address unmanaged learning and school challenges.

Regarding Domestic Violence and Abuse:

This may involve lethality assessments, psychological consultations/evaluations, and forensic examinations of victims and child witnesses, and psychological evaluations and intervention programs for abusers.

If a parent will not agree to any such evaluation, the court may order an evaluation upon good cause shown and notice to the person to be examined. Maryland Rules 2-423 and 9-205.3 address the procedural requirements for requesting and obtaining such evaluations.

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