Some people may have the idea that attorneys just want to pursue the course of action that will lead to the largest legal fee. The reality is that the vast majority of experienced South Florida family law attorneys are focused primarily on something else – which is the best interests of our clients and clients’ families. Rarely does this involve engaging in a “scorched earth” kind of hostile, contentious legal battle. Generally, that type of extremely hostile family law litigation is driven by the client, not the lawyer.
However, even those spouses and parents who engage in “behaving badly” through the legal system are entitled to certain rights and protections. This includes things like being forced to undergo a mental health examination on an involuntary basis.
So, what do you do if your ex-spouse or the other parent of your children wants the court to make you undergo a mental health exam even though you oppose doing so? A recent case from the Florida panhandle offers some useful information about how to respond.
R.R. and N.R. were embroiled in an extremely nasty divorce and post-divorce. The mother had leveled a long string of accusations of sexual abuse of the children by the father. Each time, the accusation was found — either by the Department of Children and Families or the Sheriff’s Office — to be unfounded.
The mother didn’t stop, which eventually led to the couple’s four-year-old son undergoing numerous invasive anal exams, by everyone from the maternal grandmother, the grandmother’s neighbor (a pharmacist,) another neighbor (an alleged nurse) and the staff at the local emergency room. Ultimately, the accusations were again found to be without merit.
The father fought back by seeking to force the mother to undergo an involuntary mental health evaluation.
The mother, however, was successfully able to prevent this action. Despite the mother’s engaging in conduct that the trial judge found problematic, her actions did not meet the standard established by Florida law to allow for an involuntary mental health exam. The law says that there must be “good cause” for ordering the exam.
A parent’s mere engagement in bad parenting is not enough to trigger an involuntary psychological exam. There must be some sort of greater indication that the parent exhibits “deeper mental health concerns.” In this case, there just wasn’t evidence of that degree of problem. Even accepting the mother’s actions as disturbing, that alone wasn’t enough for an involuntary psychological exam.
As the appeals court pointed out, neither the father sought nor the trial judge ordered the children’s removal from the mother’s care. In fact, when the father sought to celebrate his anniversary with his current wife, he delivered the children to the mother early for them to stay extra time with her. These things pointed to a mother who lacked the sort of extreme mental health problems that would necessitate an involuntary psychological exam.
In a perfect world, every parent would deal with the pain of divorce in a mature and thoughtful manner to foster the best interests of the children, especially with matters related to child custody. Ours is not a perfect world. If you find your ex-spouse seeking to force you to undergo an involuntary mental health exam as revenge or a litigation tactic, be sure you have the legal representation you need to protect yourself. Talk to the experienced South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. Our attorneys have many years of providing helpful answers and diligent advocacy in a wide array of family law cases. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.