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Child custody evaluation and psychiatrist reports

San Francisco, CA |

In a child custody/visitation evaluation, a psychiatrist has administered the following tests to a 4.5 year old. (i) Screen For Childhood Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders (SCARED) (ii) The Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) and (iii) Depression Self-Rating scale, and used the results to recommend I should be cut off from the child. I was not consulted or part of the decision process, and the psychiatrist claims privacy and conflict of interest privileges.

It seems like (i) and (iii) are meant for 8+ year olds (from an internet search), and (ii) is completed by a parent, i.e. my spouse, who obviously has a vested interest. None of this was disclosed in court.

What safeguards exist in law against age-inappropriate psychological tests being administered? What can I do?

Attorney Answers 4


You can call the psychiatrist to testify and cross examine. Or use your own expert to discredit the methodology. Or, petition for a second eval by a different evaluator.

The answers on this discussion board are general in nature and NOT intended as legal advice. Responding to questions does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Always see a lawyer about your individual situation.

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If you have some evidence that a psychiatrist performed work below the standard of care, you could file a complaint with the Medical Board of California. The website has an online complaint process for consumers. I'm not familiar with the tests administered to your child so I don't know if those tests were or weren't appropriate.

Whether or not the psychiatrist did or did not involve you appropriately can't be gleaned from the information contained in your post. It is not perfectly clear if the psychiatrist who administered the tests was the same as the person who did the child custody evaluation. At times, child custody evaluator will request a psychiatric evaluation of a child in order to give them additional information. It is just one piece of information on which they rely when making a recommendation.
If that were the case, the scope the inquiry put to the psychiatrist would have been narrow and input from both parents may or may not have been necessary.

If current custody orders give the other parent sole decision making, then the psychiatrist could proceed with an evaluation without your consent.

If there is a forum for psychologists and psychiatrists to answer these types of questions, you may want to pose the substantive questions about the evaluation there. If you don't have a lawyer to help you in your custody situation, you should find a lawyer in your area. Your lawyer can review your legal file and the custody evaluation and they can address your concerns more specifically.

Again, you can file a complaint with the Medical Board if you believe there is a well-founded basis.

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This is an extremely complex issue. As such, I would advise that you consult with a family law attorney as soon as possible. Regarding the expert, the best course of action is to retain an expert of your own who can contradict his/her findings. Good luck!

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1 comment

Joseph Torri

Joseph Torri


I agree with Attorney Coetzee. Hire a family law attorney.


This is certainly an unusual recommendation and I suggest you meet with a family law attorney to go over all of the facts of your case and determine your best course of action.

That being said, the way to respond to an unfavorable evaluation is to take your case to trial, and retain your own psychological expert to pick apart the shoddy methodology of the evaluator, and to provide other evidence and witnesses to prove that the recommendations are not in the child's best interest. With respect to the specific testing and your access to the results, you should review any releases or contracts you signed at the outset of the evaluation to determine what you may have agreed to. Typically, while the raw data is not released to the parties, the methodology and results are incorporated into the report.

I hope this helps. Best of luck to you.

Please be advised that this answer in no way constitutes legal advice, and is only intended to guide you in determining an appropriate direction for individualized legal consultation and/or representation. This answer should not be relied on, as each legal matter, and the appropriate course of action, is entirely dependent on the specific facts of your particular case. You are encouraged to seek the advice and guidance of a respected and experienced attorney practicing in your community to assist you. Please be advised that this answer does not create an attorney-client relationship and these communications are neither privileged nor confidential.

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