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?Respondent is acting in an unstable manner and exhibiting erratic behavior.?
?Respondent is manipulating the children by telling them Petitioner is abusing them.?
?Respondent is actively engaging in a campaign to alienate the children from Petitioner.?
My stomach churns as I read the false allegations laid out by my ex?s lawyer in a Motion for Psychological Evaluation, and I call my best friend in tears.
?I need to get a new lawyer ASAP. I was afraid something like this would happen now that I?m pro se.?
I was 7 months into a high-conflict custody battle, and my first lawyer withdrew when I couldn?t fork over another $4300 within a week. My ex seems to enjoy our legal drama, so I suspected I didn?t have long before I got hit with court filings.
I was right. His lawyer filed several motions against me the same week my first lawyer withdrew.
I?m able to quickly gather the funds for a new lawyer ? the one I should have hired in the first place? and I pay his retainer a few days after I get hit with the psych eval request. Surprisingly, he remembers my case from the brief consultation we had last year, and he?s able to enter in before the hearing.
I?ve been told family court judges generally take a ?what?s good for one parent is good for both parents? approach, and this rings true during the hearing. The judge grants my ex?s request for me to undergo a psychological evaluation, but he?s warned that he must complete one as well. I?m given 30 days to arrange payment for his test, and he?s given the same timeline to pay for mine. We?re ordered to pay for each other?s rather than our own, so I can?t use my health insurance for the expensive evaluation.
I?m irritated by the outcome, but I was expecting it.
?I don?t need to spend thousands on a psych eval to confirm what I already know,? I complain. ?And I don?t care what my ex?s eval says since I already have my own opinions of him. I don?t need someone to validate them, especially not for this price.?
But I pay for the eval anyway because I?m scared to violate the court order. My ex and his lawyer keep threatening contempt, and I don?t want to lose custody or get hit with additional fees. Instead of paying my regular bills, I skip that month?s rent and car payment so I can afford the court-ordered psych eval.
I?m also hit with another $1,000 in guardian ad litem fees during this time, plus my monthly lawyer costs. I cry as I cancel the hotel bookings for our yearly family vacation in Florida knowing that I can?t afford a vacation when I?m burdened with expensive court costs.
My landlord ends up taking me to court, and my car lender repossesses my Kia. It takes more than two months for me to get it back, and I reclaim it less than 24 hours before it?s scheduled for auction. I?m surprised the repo company waits that long to get rid of my vehicle, but I?m thankful.
Somehow I still make it to my court-ordered psych eval, but by this point, I?m an emotional mess. I?m angry because I?ve been forced to drain my savings for an evaluation I don?t even want, and I?m frustrated that someone on the state child abuse registry can accuse me of lying about abuse. I?ve spent the last couple months wondering if maybe I actually am severely mentally ill and just don?t realize it, though my therapist assures me that?s not the case.
I?m also confused about how to handle the testing process. My lawyer and closest friends tell me to be completely honest, but several of the moms in my custody battle support group encourage me to lie. Honesty is important to me, but I don?t want to jeopardize my custody case. I walk into the office unsure of how to proceed.
I decide to tell the truth.
The psychologist interrogates me about my life from birth til now. I don?t know the answers to all of her questions, and I become emotional at times. I?m also hesitant to open up to her, and I explain why.
?I don?t want you to judge me by my past. It?s not who I am today.?
The psychologist says she understands, but I?m hesitant to believe her. She seems nice, but I remind myself that she isn?t my friend. I?ve been warned that evaluators are manipulative and do anything they can to pry into your past.
She asks about my ex. I hand her a stack of restraining orders and police reports I?ve obtained against him, plus a letter from Children?s Division stating he was classified as a child abuse perpetrator due to preponderance of evidence and placed on the Child Abuse and Neglect registry.
We discuss my ex?s allegations against me in detail since that?s why I was ordered to undergo the evaluation. I explain that I wasn?t the caller for any of his DFS visits, nor did I trick the kids into thinking he abused them. I provide contact information for all of the caseworkers who have interviewed me over the years so that she can verify I wasn?t the caller.
The psychologist asks if I have any mental conditions since my ex has claimed I?m erratic. I give her a list of my current medications for high blood pressure, anxiety, and reactive airway disease, then sign a consent form saying she can speak with my medical providers about me. I tell her I battled depression as a child but only have an anxiety diagnosis, which has been in place for many years, as an adult.
When she finishes listening to my life story, I take an IQ test. Most of the questions aren?t difficult, but I?m anxious to the point where I struggle to answer them. I?m hopeful my eval is done, but this is just the beginning. Now I must complete multiple personality tests, including the MMPI-2, some parenting questionnaires, and a worksheet with fill-in-the-blank sentences.
Nearly 8 hours later, I leave her office with no clue what she?ll write in my evaluation.
I spend the next couple months worrying about my results.
?What if I have something majorly wrong with me and none of my doctors have noticed?? I anxiously tell my therapist. I explain that my ex has been sending me messages about how he can?t wait to expose me with the psych eval results, and it has me worried that maybe something is actually wrong with me.
?He?s so convinced I?m mentally unstable. What if I am and I just don?t know it??
My therapist smiles reassuringly and says, ?I?m pretty sure your test will just come back saying you have anxiety.? I try to smile back, but I?m not convinced.
?He?s just gaslighting you,? another mental health professional I speak with regularly says. She tells me abusers often use the legal system to continue harassing their exes after a relationship ends, then explains that psych eval requests are the new trend in custody court.
?They?re just another tool to leave you financially devastated and draw attention away from an abuser?s own actions,? she says. ?An abuser?s goal is to discredit you and make you doubt your own memories of past events. This is their way of punishing you for leaving the relationship since they can no longer control you at home.?
?I really do have anxiety, though. What if that makes me look like a bad mom??
?It won?t,? she says. ?You?re treating your anxiety. You take meds. You go to therapy. You have a great support system. You are not a bad mom, and this psych eval is not going to say that you are.?
Despite her reassurance, I continue worrying about the evaluation results. Nausea swirls in my throat when I get a message from my lawyer saying the psych eval results are finally ready, and I take a few deep breaths before announcing that I?m ready to view them.
I skim through the pages quickly, looking for details that stand out before I read the entire report. The psychologist says I have appropriate expectations for my kids and seem to truly enjoy parenting. She states that I get along great with one of my exes (I have kids with two different guys) and describes how I wish I had a similar coparenting relationship with the one who requested the psych evaluation for me.
I reach this section and let out a sigh of relief:
?Missy?s MMPI-2-RF results are not indicative of any clinically significant somatic, cognitive, thought, behavioral, or interpersonal difficulties. Emotionally, Missy?s responses indicate that she is prone to worry and ruminative thoughts consistent with her GAD diagnosis. However, she tends to be very trusting of other people and to lack cynicism or skepticism.?
I?m still nervous, though. Perhaps the psychologist finds something majorly wrong with me later in the report. I?m not in the clear just yet.
I skim through pages that say I?m at no risk for child abuse and neglect, nor do I have any intellectual impairments that may interfere with my parenting. I finally reach the page where the psychologist has provided a diagnosis and treatment plan, and I?m shocked by the results.
I meet the diagnostic criteria for generalized anxiety disorder ? and nothing else.