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Most, if not all, people who are in the middle of a divorce could make a long list of their spouse’s faults and deficiencies. In a custody battle, abusive Cluster B behaviors are very relevant to the decision of which parent should be the children’s primary caretaker.

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If there has been a pattern of severe physical abuse, that is a circumstance that could influence the Judge to award a disproportionate share of property to the victim spouse. If one spouse has been a serial cheater the whole marriage while the other spouse made a lot of sacrifices for the marriage, that could also affect a property division. Overall, there is still a bias in favor of mothers, but it’s not as automatic as it once was.

If one spouse squandered marital property or ran up an unreasonable amount of debt because of a gambling habit . In my practice, I see a fairly even split between mothers and fathers being awarded primary custody.

You are going to have to tie the diagnosis to the particular conduct that has caused problems and you’ll need to have your own expert to testify that the history of these behaviors reliably predicts that the behaviors will continue into the future, thus putting your kids at risk if they are left in her primary care. If a stable and pervasive pattern of the bad behaviors is proven, that’s what matters and that’s what will make an impression on the Judge, even if the individual behaviors are not that significant on their own.

The reason it’s important to have a psych expert at trial is not so much to interpret or reveal test results, but to put this pattern of bad behavior in context and give a professional opinion about the effect it will have on the kids.

First and foremost, I would caution you guys that you should never expect an outright diagnosis of a personality disorder from a court ordered psychological evaluation.

Very, very rarely is a diagnosis of PD given as the result of a court-ordered psychological evaluation.

In this manner, court-ordered psych evaluations for both parents might be more harmful to your case.

In addition, “normal” people do not react well to the stress of ongoing litigation.

How helpful are psych evaluations in custody and divorce cases?

Does it matter if you can get a personality disorder diagnosis, or is it ultimately irrelevant—unless it’s accompanied by severe acting out (e.g., hitting the kids, drugs, arrests, suicide attempts, etc.)?

You’re getting healthier now, but it takes time to recover from repeated trauma.

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