If the court has ordered you to have an independent psychological examination by a forensically informed psychologist there may be concerns of drug or alcohol abuse, mental or physical health issues that might prevent adequate parenting, or sexual, emotional or physical abuse concerns.
Preparing For A Forensic Evaluation
Once you determine who will conduct your forensic evaluation, schedule an appointment with them as soon as possible. The psychologist will require a copy of the court order so that they can address the questions asked by the court. The psychologist may request records from you for any number of issues including but not limited to records about your physical and mental health, work, legal, and supervised visitations. The evaluator may also speak with other family members or individuals that may be relevant to completing the process.
A forensic psychological examination can require anywhere from two to four hours depending on the length of time needed for the assessment and testing that will need to be completed. In addition, the psychologist will review the records, speak with other individuals that they feel will be necessary to complete the evaluation. A final report will then be submitted to the court and the representatives of the opposing parties.
A Forensic Psychological Evaluation Can Help Your Case
Often individuals are anxious about completing a psychological examination. It is important to be honest during the examination and test taking. If there are problem areas bring them forward and address them with the evaluator. The more information that the evaluator has, the better. The last thing that you want is your evaluator called to court to testify for you and opposing counsel shares information that you failed to give your evaluator. By providing as much information as possible to your evaluator and explaining things from your perspective the more thorough the report can be. Ultimately the courts want to ensure the safety of your children.
The very nature of a forensic exam is to apply scientific methods rather than forming subjective opinions, so cooperating with a forensic psychological assessment can lead to some surprising and helpful knowledge to both the court and yourself. A forensic exam can discover underlying issues you may be unaware of such as post-traumatic stress for which you can be treated, as well as identify useful intervention and treatment, as Jane Taylor Ward notes in her discussion of forensic psychology.
The purpose of a forensic assessment is to determine if the patient/defendant has a mental health disorder. Please note that emotions like anger or jealousy are not mental health disorders. But a mental state or mental illness can affect whether a person can be convicted of a crime or what the sentence should be. The forensic psychologist does not have to diagnose a specific disorder, but can testify if s/he believes that an impaired mental ability interfered with a person’s ability to understand that s/he was committing a crime.
After examining you, speaking with other people involved in your case, and reviewing documents, a forensic psychologist may conclude that psychological influences are behind certain behaviors and even crimes. Here are a few examples Washington-based forensic psychologist David Dixon lists that can destabilize mental health:
Provocative social situations, especially those that contributed to PTSD
Adverse environmental conditions