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Psychological Assessment or Expert Witness Report

A Judge may order an expert witness report and may come in the form of a psychological report. Expert witnesses are professionals who have experience in their chosen field to give an informed opinion to a court about the particular issues in a lawsuit or criminal case. 

Doctors acting as expert witnesses will be offering their professional, objective views on the evidence in cases where they have not been involved in treating the claimant or been witness to any occurrence relating to the case. Expert witnesses differ from witnesses of fact, who have knowledge about what happened in a particular case.

Parenting assessments

  • What to do If you have already failed or had a negative parenting assessment or a grandparent or aunt had had a negative SGO assessment?

It is recommended that you do as many of your own courses at home as you can, and get the certificate to ask the judge why you can pass these but not the parenting assessments. If you prepare yourself before a parenting assessment by doing online courses you will be prepared by the questions asked in their assessments.

  • So what to do if the court orders a psychology report?

Even if you haven't had one before, when it comes to a psychology report the problem is women in particular more than men, when they are being assessed give the doctor assessing them everything to show that they are angry, hurt, hate their exes, hate social workers etc.... What they write is what you have shown them during that hour or so assessment. Parents talk about their past, their parents, how they brought you up hoping this person will help you to keep your children and recommend support if you are honest and open with them..

It is advised, this is not the time to offload all your hurt and anger, this is the time to show control and the ability to parent and understand from others point of view...

These psychologists have been instructed by social services to find everything to show that you can't parent your children adequately. Again, don't slag social services off, these psychologists think social services have done everything to help you and believe this is the last resort. Try to put yourself in that person's shoes given this information about you and try to explain why you think they did as they did and take responsibility for where you went wrong.

Discuss how you think it can be resolved without your children being taken. Show you have changed, stay child-focused and don't show you are angry. Discuss the bad things that have happened to you as being in the past and now you just want to move forward and bring your family back together and repair bridges.

Talk about all the people your children will miss. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and especially siblings and cousins. In these courts, children have greater rights than adults.

Having said that, this is rarely based upon what the child wants but what CAFCASS, the guardian believes is right for them in their “professional” opinion. Social services do everything to isolate you, by this stage.

There are a lot of parents that have been through this painful journey and are willing to support you and we should all do this more for one another.

Psychological Assessment - Introduction

Where there are concerns raised in court about a parent´s mental health, the court may direct that the parent undergoes a psychological assessment. This usually requires the parent´s consent, unless there is real reason to suspect they may be at risk of harming themselves or another person. The decision as to whether to order psychological assessment is made at a judge´s individual discretion. Commonly, the parties (or their solicitors if represented) are asked to jointly instruct a Psychologist or other mental health professional.

If an assessment is directed by the court, it is recommended that the professional instructed to carry out the assessment is registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), either as a Clinical or Counselling Psychologist. Clinical and Counselling Psychologists routinely work with adult and child mental health (if that is their chosen field) - carrying out assessment, diagnosis and therapy.

Important Notes

New guidance has been produced for psychologists who act as expert witnesses. That guidance can be downloaded via the link below:

FJC stands for Family Justice Council.

BPS stands for British Psychological Society. In past years, there has been concern that people appearing in court as experts lacked the necessary experience and qualifications and membership of the relevant professional body. HCPC Psychologists (and Art Therapists) are the only statutorily governed therapeutic practitioners.

There are no legal requirements regarding fitness to practice as a Counsellor or Psychotherapist, and their accreditation or registration by/with a professional body is voluntary. However, Practice Direction 25B introduced minimum standards regarding all experts, and if a counsellor or therapist is instructed as an expert, they must be registered with a relevant professional body.

The relevant section of Practice Direction 25B reads:

"6. If the expert´s area of professional practice is not subject to statutory registration (e.g. child psychotherapy, systemic family therapy, mediation, and experts in exclusively academic appointments) the expert should demonstrate appropriate qualifications and/ or registration with a relevant professional body on a case by case basis.

Registering bodies usually provide a code of conduct and professional standards and should be accredited by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (See Appendix 2). If the expertise is academic in nature (e.g. regarding evidence of cultural influences) then no statutory registration is required (even if this includes direct contact or interviews with individuals) but consideration should be given to appropriate professional accountability."

It is important you are aware that the court is unlikely to accept any evidence based on assessments carried out without the court´s consent. If you want a psychological assessment on yourself (to counter-act allegations), on your child, or on your ex-partner for the purpose of court proceedings, you must ask the court´s consent.

HCPC Psychologists

In order to practice as a Psychologist (Clinical, Counselling, Forensic, Health or Educational), registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) is a statutory requirement.

There is no requirement for HCPC registered Psychologists to also be a Chartered member of the British Psychological Society (BPS), though many choose to be.

Clinical and Counselling Psychologists routinely work with adult and child mental health (if that is their chosen field) - carrying out assessment, diagnosis, therapy. This includes an assessment of capacity to parent based on the mental health of the parents. It is Counselling and Clinical Psychologists who most usually work with Public and Private Family Law cases.

Is experience in reporting to the court necessary?

In TTI's opinion, absolutely. While a Psychologist or psychiatrist without this experience may conduct an assessment of similar quality, experience in attending Court, writing reports for the Court to consider and giving oral evidence is helpful. A report that is ambiguous or confusing may be misinterpreted or found to be inconclusive, requiring further assessments to be carried out. This may delay or prevent the Court from having sufficient information to make a decision.

All HCPC registered Psychologists are able to act as Expert Witnesses - the most important factor is whether they routinely work within the area they are asked to perform as an Expert and that they maintain their Continued Professional Development.

Some Psychologists receive training as an Expert during their qualification period, and there is a range of additional post qualification training. Inexperienced Expert witnesses will draw on supervision from a more experienced Psychologist.

Can I ask that my ex-partner be assessed?

Yes, but the Court will only consider such a request if there are good reasons.

It is recommended you only make such a request if you believe that your ex-partner´s mental health poses a real risk to the children (themselves or others). Please note that psychological evaluations can delay court proceedings for months and are costly. Even if a parent has a mental illness or disorder, this does not necessarily mean they are not a capable parent.

When might a psychological assessment be required?

The Court may consider requesting a psychological evaluation when allegations of mental illness or personality disorder need to be investigated.

The primary causes for the Court to order the evaluation would be where it is alleged that behaviour attributed to mental health poses a risk to the other parent or the children (or both) or may otherwise impact on the children´s welfare.


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