Can a Court Order a Psychiatric Evaluation?

Psychologist taking notes

It’s widely known that one person cannot force another into receiving a mental health evaluation or treatment for a mental health condition; the individual has to reach the decision to get help on their own. But in some instances that affect other parties and involve childcare or criminal activity, individuals may be court-ordered to get a psychiatric evaluation.

What Is A Psychiatric Evaluation?

Also known as a mental health or psychological evaluation, a psychiatric evaluation is used to determine if someone has a specific mental health disorder or a physical condition that isn’t immediately visible/identifiable. It can be administered by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or family doctor – but in most cases, a psychiatric evaluation is done by a psychiatrist.

This type of examination can be used to diagnose conditions and disabilities such as:

If a psychiatrist identifies one or more of these conditions, they can then determine how severe it is and begin to create a treatment plan that will be most successful for their patient.

A psychiatric evaluation may involve several types of screenings and assessments, including: physical exams, verbal and written questionnaires, lab tests, medical evaluations, and cognitive evaluations. The type of tests a psychiatrist uses will depend on the patient and their needs.

While psychiatric evaluations can be helpful for anyone who is experiencing effects of a mental or physical health condition without a diagnosis, it is perhaps most beneficial for individuals who:

  • Have issues in school at work because of a condition
  • Display radical changes in mood or behavior
  • Experience severe memory loss
  • Engage in any violent behavior
  • Use any substances in excess

Some of these individuals may not think they have a problem or don’t want to receive help, so they might not take the steps to get a psychiatric evaluation on their own. Unfortunately, going without diagnosis or treatment for certain conditions can cause deeper issues and could result in behavior or conflict that calls for legal action.

Can A Psych Evaluation Be Court-Ordered?

Yes, a psychiatric evaluation can be ordered by a court. However, whether or not a specific court will order an evaluation depends on the state it is in and its individual laws.

Court-ordered psychiatric evaluations may be used in different types of court cases, most commonly in child custody and sex crime cases. There are a couple of ways that a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation may come into effect: a judge could determine whether circumstances warrant a psychiatric evaluation, or the plaintiff can request an evaluation that the judge will then have to approve.

People can make this request by filing a Motion for a Mental Health Assessment if they think that the other party has a mental health condition that affects the case. They must complete and submit an application with as much detail about the defendant and the case as possible. Judges may be more inclined to order a psychiatric evaluation if the defendant has drug or alcohol dependency, previous criminal charges, or allegations of child abuse.

If the judge orders or approves the motion for a psychiatric evaluation, they will hire an impartial mental health professional to perform one. The specialist will administer the tests that they deem fit to determine an individual’s psychological state.

After Psychiatric Evaluations: What’s Next?

A psychiatric evaluation will usually be followed by treatment for the diagnosed condition/s. Treatment may include a combination of medication, one-on-one therapy, support groups, family therapy, and more. To learn more about psychiatric evaluations and the treatment that follows, contact our team of mental health treatment representatives by giving us a call at 866-552-3758.


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