Divorce and child custody proceedings are fertile ground for flinging psychiatric swords, particularly when domestic violence is before the court. If you are a domestic abuse survivor in family court, you either know what I mean or will know before it's over.

Here's what happens...

The Custody Evaluation

In good faith, you may be asked to complete a custody evaluation in preparation for a custody trial and determination. Now sometimes, the "good faith" part disappears or may not have even been there in the first place.

Nonetheless, you give it your best, trusting in your own personal sanity and hoping that justice prevails. You may meet with a court-appointed psychiatrist or psychologist a couple of times for an individual interview, also called a "clinical evaluation."

There will be an opportunity for you to sharpen your pencil and plow through some select psychometric assessments, like the MMPI and other tests related to parenting skills. Your answers are scored and these scores, in conjunction with clinical impressions, then serve as the basis for subsequent clinical interpretations of your psychological status.

The Psychiatric Sword

The psychiatrist or psychologist then produces an interpretive clinical evaluation/report, which ultimately serves as your opposition's "holy grail." By that, I mean, his/her weapon to fling before the court and every other Tom, Dick and Harry to aide him in carrying out his campaign with respect to you.

Now often this campaign is to discredit you in order to save face and keep the embarrassment of domestic abuse at bay. Or, it may be utilized to punish and embarrass you by slandering your character. Most likely it will be an earnest effort to regain and maintain control over the family through legal psychiatric abuse.

The Psychiatric Sentence That Says Nothing

Nonetheless, it will become the professional paper "proof" of your insanity and your opposition's entitlement. The scary part of this little, yet lengthy, report is that it can communicate to the lay person that you are mentally defective. Yet, to the trained psych-clinical eye, it can be nothing more than psychological rhetoric that fails to provide a definitive psychiatric diagnosis.

Unfortunately for you, and most likely for your children, this meaningless psychological report works like an invisible psychiatric sword because in many cases it will be shielded from direct public scrutiny. Key elements contained in it will be referenced in some other court documentation that carry the weight of its message.

But the actual clinical evaluation report may be sealed by the court for NO ONE to see including the litigants. Or, you may be given the right to examine this document only in the presence of your legal counsel. That means you can't walk out of his/her office with your own copy to dissect and disseminate for your true understanding.

What's a Litigant to Do to Prevent and/or Offset Injury

Clearly, you long to be treated fairly. You may even seek to clarify and counter the misrepresentations regarding your mental health status.

If you see yourself walking down the road of being on the receiving end of a psychiatric sword, then find a mental health professional familiar with legal domestic abuse to help you prevent or offset injury. And while you are looking, read everything you can get your hands on regarding "legal psychiatric abuse," before the legal-psychiatrics spiral out of control.

If you play your hand right you can avert the devastating travesty of injustice ever so prevalent in domestic violence child custody cases.

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