Pursuant to Section 1.360(a)(1) of the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, “[a] party may request any other party to submit to examination by a qualified expert when the condition that is the subject of the requested examination is in controversy.” Fla.R.Civ.P. 1.360(a)(1).

Furthermore, an examination under Rule 1.360(a)(2) “is authorized only when the party submitting the request has good cause for the examination.” Fla.R.Civ.P. 1.360(a)(2). At any hearing on the request for compulsory examination, the party submitting the request has the burden of showing that both the “in controversy” and “good cause” prongs have been satisfied.

The Third District Court in Wade v. Wade has stressed how “[t]he two essential prerequisites that must be clearly manifested are: (1) that [the] mental condition is “in controversy”[,] i.e., [is] directly involved in some material element of the cause of action or a defense; and (2) that “good cause” [is] shown[,] i.e., that the mental state …, even though “in controversy,” cannot adequately be evidenced without the assistance of expert medical testimony.” Wade v. Wade, 124 So. 3d 369, 374 (Fla. 3d DCA 2013) (internal citations omitted).

The “in controversy” and “good cause” requirements cannot be met by mere conclusory allegations of the pleadings or by mere relevance to the case but require an affirmative showing by the movant that each condition as to which the examination is sought is really and genuinely in controversy and that good cause exists for ordering each particular examination. Id. (quoting Schlagenhauf v. Holder, 379 U.S. 104, 118 (1964)).

Therefore, a trial court must make specific findings as to both prongs under Rule 1.360 before ordering a mandatory psychological evaluation. Id. Unless both prongs of Rule 1.360 are adequately established, a trial court may not sua sponte order a party to submit to a compulsory mental examination, as that would be a departure from the essential requirements of law. Id.

The Wade v. Wade Court went on to state how while a parent’s emotional state is certainly relevant in making a custody determination, “the fact that custody is at issue should not alone create a reason to order a psychological evaluation.” Id. at 375 (internal citations omitted). “Mental or psychological examinations are not automatic [in child custody disputes] and should not be.” Id. A parent’s mental state is typically at issue in a custody hearing only when there are verified allegations that the parent in question is having mental problems that could substantially impact his or her ability to properly raise children. Id. (emphasis added).

Even if a party’s mental condition is in controversy, “[a]n examination under [Rule 1.360] is authorized only when the party submitting the request has good cause for the examination. At any hearing the party submitting the request [has] the burden of showing good cause.” Id. at 376. There is a heightened burden of proof when a party who is the subject of the forced examination has not voluntarily placed that issue in controversy. Id. at 374 (internal citations omitted). In fact, a “compulsory mental examination has traditionally been deemed an invasion of privacy [and as such is only] tolerated upon a showing of good cause.” Id. at 376. Therefore, it is only after the movant makes a showing of good cause may a court order a mental examination or examinations. Id. (internal citations omitted).

Furthermore, in a child custody case, “[t]he showing of ‘good cause’ should be based on evidence that the parent has been unable to meet the special needs of the child.” Williams v. Williams, 550 So. 2d 166, 167 (Fla. 2d DCA 1989) (internal citations omitted). Conclusory allegations regarding a parent’s mental stability alone do not put that parent’s mental health “in controversy” and do not demonstrate “good cause” for submission to examination. Id. at 168.

Consequently, a mere allegation in a pleading about a party’s mental stability or substance abuse is not enough for the Court to compel a psychological evaluation or a drug test.

When an examination is warranted, an order compelling an examination must define the boundaries of the examination and specify the time, place, manner, conditions and scope of the examination. See Fla.R.Civ.P.1.360(a)(1)(A).

Call Now Button