Guidelines for Parental Fitness Evaluations
By Beverly Bird
Updated July 21, 2017
A parental fitness evaluation might be ordered by the court at the request of one parent to judge the fitness of the other, or if the parent of a child who has been placed in foster care wants to regain custody. Guidelines for the process can vary slightly state by state, according to the website USLegal, but there are similarities in the methods used and the kind of information that is gathered.
A licensed psychologist or psychiatrist generally performs a parental fitness evaluation to identify aspects of a parent’s lifestyle, habits and psychological state that might cause harm to 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. A fitness evaluation is not the same as a custody evaluation, according to the Responsive Centers for Psychology and Learning. A custody evaluation results in a recommendation of which parent is best suited as the child’s primary custodian while a fitness evaluation judges if a parent is qualified to care for a child.
The child and both parents take part in a parental fitness evaluation, according to "Behavioral Science Specialists." Information is also gathered from any third parties who might have pertinent observations and information.
At the beginning of a fitness evaluation, if you are the parent being evaluated, you will probably be asked to sign releases or authorizations to allow the investigator access to information that might impact his decision. This can include police and court records, if you were ever arrested, medical records, including other psychological evaluations, or even an evaluation of your home and neighborhood if safety concerns there are an issue, according to the Marrison Law Firm in Colorado. Your child’s medical records will determine whether or not he ever came to harm while in your care.
"Behavioral Science Specialists" indicates that fitness evaluations usually begin with assessment of biological, social and psychological factors that might impact the family. The evaluator will administer a series of psychological tests to both parents and child and will observe your child interacting with both you and her other parent. Finally, the investigator might ask for an additional interview with one or all of you to clarify a particular issue.
You might be asked to undertake a parent awareness skills survey (PASS), according to "Separated Parenting Access and Resource Center." This measures your responses to a variety of situations that might arise during typical parenting. The parent perception of child profile (PPCP) measures your knowledge of your child’s likes, dislikes, routine, and academic and medical history. Additionally, your child might take a perception-of-relationships Test (PORT) to determine any defense mechanisms she may have had to develop in order to comfortably interact with you.
- Responsive Centers for Psychology and Learning: Custody and Parental Fitness Evaluations
- Behavioral Science Specialists: Forensic Services
- The Marrison Law Firm: Colorado Springs Custody Lawyer: How to Prove a Parent is Unfit
- USLegal: Unfit Parent Law and Legal Definition
- Separated Parenting Access and Resource Center: Common Psychological Tests
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.