Does My Client Need a Cognitive Functioning Assessment?

Does My Client Need a Cognitive Functioning Assessment?
Written by: Amber Cowgill Updated: In: Child Care

Care proceedings are extremely fast paced, and it is easy to get lost in all the paperwork and Court hearings. It is important to remember that your clients aren’t legally trained, and it may be their first time speaking to a Solicitor, attending a court building, and having someone else make decisions about their family. This is such an overwhelming time for your client, and it may be difficult for them to focus on everything at once which may result in them to not fully absorbing or understanding the information.

What Can a Solicitor Do to Help a Client Understand Care Proceedings?  

When clients have difficulty understanding proceedings, the status quo has been for legal professionals to make a Part 25 application requesting permission to instruct a Psychologist to complete a Cognitive Functioning assessment of a client when the professionals question the client’s level of understanding.

What is a Cognitive Functioning Assessment?

A Cognitive Functioning Assessment considers a person’s ability to understand information, in writing, and verbally. It will also consider the persons memory and their ability to communicate their instructions.

The assessment is able to identify what support that person may require whether that be breaks during lengthy meetings, a fidget tool, to visit a court room ahead of a hearing.  The assessment may also recommend a referral for a full psychological assessment or an Intermediary. 

What is the Test?

In order to use expert evidence in your care proceedings, you need to convince the court it’s essential for them to reach a fair decision. This requirement, called the “necessity test,” applies to all situations where expert opinions are presented in family court cases and therefore must be met for all Part 25 applications.    

The Current Law

Recently, Lieven J, considered an application for the instruction of a Psychologist to conduct a cognitive assessment of a mother. The Lieven J reminded us that we should not be making applications because the report will be nice. It is important for representatives to consider their clients individual needs. Could these be met without the aid of an assessment? Should you spend a little extra time with the client to ensure they understand the information?   

It is important to remember that clients are people and not just a case file. It is important to be able to provide information without legal jargon and communicate in a way that best works with your client. This could include not sending lengthy documents to clients but inviting them into the office to discuss the information and provide them with a short summary. 

I have found in my experience that having a discussion with your client at the early stages of the proceedings about how they feel with receiving a lot of information, the importance of understanding it, and how I can make it easier for them to understand so they can fully engage in proceedings, makes clients feel comfortable with you which means they are more likely to say when they don’t understand something and ask you to rephrase. 

In Short…

  • Put yourself in your clients’ shoes… would you find the process hard to follow?
  • What would make the process easier for you to understand the proceedings?
  • Is the instruction of a psychologist necessary for the proceedings or would it just make it easier?
  • Think outside the box!

Legal Disclaimer.

All advice is correct at time of publication.