In family law matters, mental health issues can have a significant impact on the outcome of a case, especially when it comes to issues of parenting and child custody. It is important for the family court to identify any mental health issues that may be present to ensure the best possible outcome for the children and families involved. In this blog post, we will explore the requirements and process of the family court of Australia to identify a mental health issue, referencing Australian judgments and the Family Law Act 1974 specific sections which provide the power for mental health assessments to occur.
The Family Law Act 1974 outlines the responsibilities of the family court in cases involving children, including the requirement to ensure that the best interests of the child are met. This includes taking into account any mental health issues that may be present in either parent or the child. Section 60CC of the Act outlines the factors that the court must consider when determining what is in the best interests of the child, including the child’s psychological and emotional needs.
In cases where mental health issues are suspected, the court has the power to order a mental health assessment to be conducted. This is outlined in Section 91B of the Act, which allows the court to order a party to undergo a medical or psychiatric examination if it is necessary for the purpose of the proceedings. This section also allows for the appointment of a single expert witness to provide an opinion on the mental health of a party or child.
In the case of Canavan & Canavan (No. 2)  FCCA 1926, the court ordered a mother to undergo a psychiatric assessment after concerns were raised about her mental health and its impact on her ability to care for her children. The assessment was conducted by a qualified psychiatrist and provided valuable information for the court in making decisions about the best interests of the children involved.
It is important to note that the court must have a reasonable basis for ordering a mental health assessment, and it must be necessary for the purposes of the proceedings. The court must also take into account any potential impact on the mental health and well-being of the party undergoing the assessment.
In conclusion, the family court of Australia has the power to order a mental health assessment in cases where it is necessary for the purpose of proceedings. This is outlined in Section 91B of the Family Law Act 1974, which allows for the appointment of a single expert witness to provide an opinion on the mental health of a party or child. The court must have a reasonable basis for ordering an assessment and must take into account the potential impact on the mental health and well-being of the party undergoing the assessment. By taking mental health issues into account, the court can ensure the best possible outcome for children and families involved in family law matters.