As a family law attorney, I often hear clients express concerns about the mental health of their soon-to-be ex-spouse. In Texas, like in many other states, the law provides mechanisms to address these concerns. One such mechanism is the mental examination, which can be requested under certain circumstances during a divorce proceeding.
The Legal Basis for Mental Health Examinations
Under Rule 204.1 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, a party may request a mental examination of another party if the mental condition of that party is in controversy and the party requesting the examination can show good cause. The court, upon receiving such a request, has the discretion to order a mental examination by a qualified expert.
The Purpose of a Mental Health Examination
The purpose of a mental examination is to discover facts that will aid in the resolution of the case. It is not intended to be a tool for harassment or to gain an unfair advantage. The court will only order an examination if it is relevant to the issues at hand and if the party requesting the examination can demonstrate good cause.
Mental Health Examinations in Divorces Without Children
In a divorce case without children, a mental examination may not be relevant. The primary issues in such a case are the division of assets and the potential award of spousal maintenance, neither of which are typically influenced by a party’s mental health. Texas law requires that the division of marital property be “just and right,” without regard to fault in the breakup of the marriage (Texas Family Code §7.001). Similarly, the award of spousal maintenance is based on financial need and other factors, not marital misconduct (Texas Family Code §8.051).
Mental Health Examinations in Divorces With Children
However, in a divorce case involving children, the mental health of the parents can become a significant issue. The best interest of the child is the primary consideration in determining issues of conservatorship (custody) and possession and access (visitation). If there is reason to believe that a parent’s mental health may impact their ability to act in the best interest of the child, a mental examination may be warranted.
The Court’s Role in Mental Health Examinations
It’s important to note that requesting a mental examination of the other party is not a step to be taken lightly. The court will not automatically grant such a request. The party requesting the examination must be able to show good cause, and the mental health of the party must be genuinely in controversy.
If a mental examination is ordered, the results can be used as evidence in the case. However, the results are not definitive. The court will weigh this evidence along with all other evidence presented in making its final decision.
Social Studies in Divorce Cases
In some cases, the court may also order a social study to evaluate the circumstances and condition of the child and each parent. This is a broader investigation that may include observations of the child’s home environment, interviews with the parents and child, and consultation with relevant professionals. The results of a social study can also be used as evidence in the case.
If you have concerns about your spouse’s mental health and its potential impact on your divorce case, it’s crucial to discuss these concerns with an experienced Collin County family law attorney.
To discuss retaining our firm for your divorce or child custody case, please schedule a consultation with us today.