Forensic psychology includes all activities and interests that are pursued by psychologists in legal contexts. The primary purpose is to assist a legal decision maker (attorney, judge, or court) in addressing a legal issue. The forensic evaluation should help to determine whether, and to what extent the the individual being evaluated is able to think, feel and act in a certain fashion. These capacities underlie a persons fitness to satisfy the demands of the legal question. Frequently, the goal is to provide accurate information for use in litigation, and not to enhance the individuals well being or mental health functioning. These may include the following questions by legal authorities.
- Is a person competent to make a will?
- A pretrial evaluation may be requested to determine if mental health issues are in any way contributing to a persons behavior.
- Juvenile courts may need evaluations to assist in determining if a child has mental health, educational, behavioral or family needs that have to be addressed.
- Is a person competent to stand trial? Does he or she understand their charges and allegations against him or her and can the person assist legal counsel in the preparation of a defense.
- After an automobile injury or industrial accident, an individual may have psychological and behavioral changes which will require documentation. There may be significant cognitive changes which include problems of memory, concentration, problem solving and changes in mood. Post Traumatic Experiences may occur which include nightmares, repetition of images, poor sleep and increased startle reflex. If these have occurred in the workplace, cooperation with the Workers' Compensation insurance carrier may be requested.
- A high conflict divorce action may necessitate a child custody evaluation. The psychological evaluator in these cases should attempt to secure all critical and major participants in a family in order to help make decisions that will arrive at the best interests of minor children. The effects of divorce on children, their post divorce adjustment and their developmental status may need to be evaluated by the examiner. The final disposition of the custody evaluation should help with improving the resilience of children in their newly divided family.
- The Department of Children and Families within the Department of Child Protective Services, may require evaluations of children and their families when petitions and allegations of child abuse, child neglect or child abandonment have been identified. The Department may need assistance with plans for parenting capacities or termination of parental rights.
- Immigration Psychological Services will assist the immigration attorney if his/her client requires a waiver in the application for residency status. This may include intellectual, cognitive or mental health conditions that interfere in an applicants residency application.