Posted by Tamar Braddon on 18th March 2024
Parent Cognitive Assessments in Care Proceedings

In a recent judgment by Mrs. Justice Lieven last month (February 23, 2024), significant insights were shared regarding the necessity of cognitive assessments in care proceedings.

What is a Cognitive Assessment?

A cognitive assessment, often requested in legal proceedings, is a comprehensive evaluation of an individual’s cognitive abilities. It aims to assess various aspects of cognitive functioning, including memory, attention, problem-solving skills, and decision-making abilities.

During a cognitive assessment, trained professionals, such as psychologists or psychiatrists, administer a series of tests and tasks designed to measure different cognitive domains. These assessments can involve verbal and written tasks, puzzles, and memory exercises. Additionally, observations of behaviour and interactions may also be considered.

The results of a cognitive assessment provide valuable information about an individual’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses. This information helps inform decisions regarding the individual’s capacity to understand legal proceedings, make informed decisions, and effectively participate in their case.

Interesting points raised by the recent judgment.

  1. Importance of Evidence: Lieven J emphasized the need for proper evidence accompanying applications for cognitive assessments. These assessments should show why they’re necessary to assist the court in resolving the case, going beyond common difficulties faced by parents in care proceedings.
  2. Timeliness Matters: The judgment highlighted the importance of timely applications for cognitive assessments. It emerged that the application in this case was made before the solicitor had even met the client, leading to a critical examination of the necessity and timing of such requests.
  3. Trust in Professional Judgment: As a parent, you need to be able to trust the expertise of specialist lawyers, social workers, and children’s guardians. They’ll spend time with you, explaining matters in simple language, rather than solely relying on cognitive assessments.
  4. The Child Advocate’s Role: the judgment addressed the role of advocates for the child, highlighting the importance of clarity and transparency in their positions. If it becomes apparent that an application should be refused, the guardian and the child’s solicitor should express their stance to the court unequivocally.

This judgment serves as a reminder for parents and their legal representation involved in care proceedings to approach cognitive assessments thoughtfully. Ensuring that assessments are based on thorough evidence, requested at the right time, and balanced with professional judgment.

The Family Law Company has a dedicated specialist team supporting parents like you through every step of the process.

Need some advice? Get in touch today

Tamar Braddon is a Trainee Solicitor at The Family Law Company, working in the care team.

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