Mental health professionals provide valuable services to the court system. Knoweledge of the party’s mental health and psychological well-being becomes relevant in certains cases.
When the issue of competency is raised, both in the civil court and in the criminal court, the psychiatrist is asked to assess the person’s level of functioning and ability to make appropriate decisions. It is often necessary to provide guidance and protection for the elderly or those with long-standing mental or emotional difficulties. On some occasions, the psychiatrist is asked to provide the treatment with regular periods of reporting to the court or other involved agencies.
A thorough evaluation is required to provide the information to the court as it addresses the case pending. A review of the records, a series of interviews and collateral contacts with professionals involved, and a series of assessments and inventories will result in a written report which outlines the diagnosis, treatment, and recommendations for the party. The psychiatrist may provide this service to the court as an appointed representative of the court, or for the assistance of an attorney requiring a more thorough understanding of the client.
Another area of forensic interface pertains to involuntary treatment. This can be initiated on the basis of mental illness—The Baker Act or on the basis of addiction—The Marchman Act. These Acts are established to provide protection and safety to the patient and those directly involved.
Children require protection. The court will seek the assistance of the psychiatrist and mental health professional to determine the specific needs or “best interest” of the child during dependency or family court matters. An investigation may be required or directed interaction of a longer-term nature to assist the parents and other parties in recognizing the importance of addressing the child’s specific needs for stability and consistency. This becomes particularly important if there is addiction or a mental health issue for either parent or the minor child.