How Will a Court Consider a Child’s Mental Health?
The mental health of both parents and children can play a role in a court decision regarding child custody. It is well-known that parents’ mental health has an impact on children, and that healthy development is linked to the care and support the parents provide. If a parent is dealing with a mental health condition, it is often more difficult to provide what children need.
The court comes to decisions regarding child custody are based on “the best interests of the child,” with the parent’s wishes as a secondary point. The court will review a set of factors when deciding a child custody case and may require an evaluation of the mental health of both parents and child as part of the process.
What Does the Court Consider?
Generally, the court looks over a set of factors regarding the mental health of the child. The types of information the court may review in a child custody case include:
- The mental health of each parent
- Any history of child abuse or neglect related to the mental health of a parent
- A professional assessment performed by a qualified expert
- The results of interviews with parents, children and others familiar with the child and family
- School files and health records
- Psychological test results
- Home visit reports
Mental Health Professionals and Child Custody
The information provided by a mental health professional can have a significant impact on the outcome of a child custody case. These reports contain a mental health professional’s opinion regarding the mental health of the child, and what the practitioner considers would be most beneficial for that child. The mental health assessment may be comprehensive or brief. These evaluations are often called a “730 evaluation,” or a “3110 evaluation,” referring to the California codes under which they are performed.
- 730 Evaluation: This is an evaluation of the parents, the home situation, the child’s relationship with each parent, and . These evaluations must be performed by a licensed professional such as a physician, board-certified psychiatrist, psychologist, marriage and family therapist, or social worker. An evaluator could be appointed who is unlicensed in some cases.
- 3110 Evaluation: These evaluations involve a court-appointed investigator being directed by the court to conduct an investigation into alleged sexual abuse in the family setting, the nature and extent of the abuse, and the impact of the on the child’s health and wellbeing.
Some child custody cases will involve information from more than one mental health expert. Mental health experts are alert for signs of parental alienation, an effort by one parent to disrupt the relationship with the other parent with manipulation or false claims. You may need to support your child custody case by requesting a mental health evaluation to be presented to the court, which could have a significant impact on the outcome of a custody case, particularly in cases of child abuse, whether physical, sexual, or emotional.
Children and Divorce – The Impact on Child Mental Health
Children can suffer deeply when parents split up, and a pending divorce can affect their mental health, particularly in a contentious case. Parents must take care to avoid speaking negatively about the other parent within the earshot of a child. Children love both of their parents, and these relationships are the foundation of healthy child development. The court does not look kindly upon a parent who engages in parental alienation, and when proven to have occurred, can affect the outcome of a child custody case.
How to Protect Your Child’s Mental Health During Divorce
The last thing you want is to cause your child to suffer if you are involved in a custody battle. Keeping the home environment calm, safe and secure is crucial. Maintain your usual routines as much as possible and do all you can to avoid disrupting the child’s life. Be careful to avoid speaking about the custody case when your child can hear you, no matter how upset you feel. These are issues only appropriate for the adults involved.
For information about child mental health and custody and a free initial consultation, contact Mattis Law, A.P.C. at (858) 328-4400.