Sharing information from your child’s psychologist in court
During a family breakup, children often see a psychologist to help them. Sometimes the court may order children take part in sessions with a psychologist. It’s hoped the children feel secure in speaking to an objective person who can help them. But is what your child says to their psychologist a secret? Not always…
Queensland Health guidelines indicate that where a child is “assessed as capable of making their own decisions about information sharing, their wishes should be followed”. Unless disclosure of that information “in the opinion of the clinicians, is in the best interests of the child”.
Of course in some circumstances, such as when a child may be in danger, sharing information with the courts is mandatory.
Courts can also issue a subpoena for a child’s psychologist to produce their notes for the court.
In a recent case, a child’s psychologist was issued with a subpoena by the child’s mother to produce notes to the court in relation to her sessions with the child. But the psychologist objected to producing her notes.
Previously, the court had made orders that the child and both parents see the psychologist with the aim of repairing the relationship between the mother and the child.
The psychologist gave evidence that she objected to sharing her notes with the court, saying the “production of documents threatened ongoing therapeutic relationships between psychologist and client.”
In particular, the psychologist said the “production of sensitive therapeutic material may jeopardise the continuation” of the therapeutic relationship with the child.
She expressed concern that the subpoenaed information may be used detrimentally towards the child, “putting her in an emotionally vulnerable position and dissolving trust built between the psychologist and the child.”
The court acknowledged that having access to the notes could be “potentially destabilising of the child, undermine her current therapeutic relationship, and potentially her capacity to develop future therapeutic relationships, in the context of again potentially needing them given the issues that she has faced”.
However, the court also found that obtaining the information from the psychologist would help determine what was in the child’s best interest. This weighed in favour of granting access to the psychologist’s notes, both because of the public interest, and having a decision made with the best interests of the child in mind.
The court granted “conditional access” to the documents produced by the psychologist, meaning they were limited to use with a therapist or a family report writer involved with the family and the court process.
If you’re trying to navigate a family breakup or need advice on helping your child, contact Michael Lynch Family Lawyers by calling (07) 3221 4300 today. Our family law experts are here to help you.