Kevin Qualls Family Law
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Considerations when using a therapist to testify

There's no question that life in general can be tough for kids to cope with, especially when they are in the midst of a child custody dispute between their parents. A child who has witnessed or a divorce or who has just had to learn that their parents are going to live apart from each other permanently may need some help from a mental health professional to cope with these issues.

This is especially true when the child may have been exposed to abuse or to some other bad parenting at the hands of one of his or her parents. In such cases, a parent may think it prudent to ask the child's therapist to write a letter to the court or even com to testify.

Moreover, if one parent does get a therapist involved, then the other parent may want to question the therapist, particularly if the information is unflattering to that parent.

Whether to have a therapist testify or not is really a question that a parent should discuss with his or her attorney. However, there are a few considerations that even mental professional health professionals themselves keep in mind when they are asked to testify, and it may help parents understand the appropriate use of therapists in the courtroom as well.

The basic principle behind having a therapist testify is that if the professional is acting as the child's psychologist, then he or she generally should limit testimony to observations and opinions as to diagnosis. There should, in other words, be no blame given as to why the child needs therapy; only an assessment of the child's mental health needs.

The professional should not, and arguably cannot, give an opinion about child custody, parenting time, or the character and parenting skills of either parent. This is particularly so if only one parent has had contact with the child's mental health professional.

A therapist who goes beyond these boundaries risks being unconvincing; they may also wind up facing legal trouble themselves.

If, on the other hand, a parent thinks having a mental health expert serve as a kind of third-party neutral like a guardian ad litem or custody evaluator would be helpful, then the parent should ask the court for an order specifying as much.

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