Forensic & Family Court Services
Forensic Mental Health Evaluation
A Forensic Mental Health Evaluation (FMHE) is a form of evaluation performed by a certified forensic mental health professional to provide relevant clinical information to a legal decision maker or the litigants involved in civil or criminal proceedings.
Expert Witness Testimony
Expert witnesses in clinical psychology are helpful for performing independent mental health evaluations, psychological testing, review of mental health records, and testifying about their specialty area in mental health. Experts in clinical psychology can testify in either civil or criminal cases. Licensed Professional Counselors trained in Clinical Psychology can also discuss the standards of care for inpatient mental health treatment, perform pain and suffering evaluations, and assess suicide-risk.
Guardian Ad Litem
The legal term Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) refers to an individual appointed by the court to represent the best interests of a minor child in legal proceedings, such as divorce, child custody, child abuse and neglect, and parental rights and responsibility cases. A Guardian ad Litem has a unique responsibility to the child, protecting only his/her interests in cases that are frequently fraught with high emotions and conflict. In many jurisdictions, the court appoints a Counselor/Mental Health clinician or an attorney to specifically represent the child as the Guardian Ad Litem, though another qualified adult not a party to the case may serve in this position. A Guardian Ad Litem can also be appointed to represent the interests of mentally ill or disabled adults.
Child Custody Evaluation
In general, a child custody evaluation is a process in which a mental health professional, typically a Licensed Professional Counselor or Psychologist, evaluates you, your child, and your co-parent to make a recommendation to the court regarding custody and visitation. The purpose of all custody evaluations is to ensure that the needs of children are being met as best as possible. This assessment requires the counselor to pay particular attention to the skills and deficits of parenting attributes in tandem with the psychological needs of the child.
Parental Fitness Evaluation/
Parental Capacity Exam
A parental fitness evaluation might be ordered by the court at the request of one parent to judge the fitness of the other parent. A Licensed Professional Counselor or Psychologist generally performs a parental fitness evaluation to identify aspects of a parent's lifestyle, habits and psychological state that might cause harm to his/her child. In cases of custody disputes, a fitness evaluation determines if a parent is capable of meeting the emotional and physical needs of the child. The parental fitness evaluation may require a clinical interview and psychological testing.
Co-parenting services help families who are going through a separation or divorce. The goals are to improve communication and conflict resolution skills and develop a co-parenting plan for the future that is in the best interest of the child or children. A family court judge may mandate families to attend this kind of service, or they can go on their own accord. Co-parenting is not mental health counseling and is generally considered an education service.
What is a Parenting Coordinator?
A parenting coordinator (PC) helps parents communicate, defuse tension, and make day-to-day child-rearing decisions. In some states, the parental coordinator can actually make decisions when parents can't agree. Parental Coordinators are usually specifically trained mediators, mental health professionals, or family lawyers.
The parental coordinator's goals are:
Protecting the child's best interest
Encouraging cooperation between parents
Encouraging respectful interactions between parents
Keeping parenting out of court
Assisting parents with working within the framework of their court paperwork