Gentile v. Gentile

Facts: During the parties’ divorce, the trial court ordered the parties to undergo psychological examinations and considered the results of these examinations in determining the primary residential parent. Father argued it was error to compel those examinations and appealed.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial courtRule 35.01 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure provides:

When the mental or physical condition (including the blood group) of a party, or of a person in the custody or under the legal control of a party, is in controversy, the court in which the action is pending may order the party to submit to a physical or mental examination by a suitably licensed or certified examiner or to produce for examination the person in his custody or legal control. The order may be made only on motion for good cause shown and upon notice to the person to be examined and to all parties and shall specify the time, place, manner, conditions, and scope of the examination and the person or persons by whom it is to be made.

Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-106(5) says “the mental and physical health of the parents” is a factor the trial court must consider in making a custody determination.  This does not mean the mental condition of parents is necessarily “in controversy” in every case.  Instead, the Court “must analyze the parties’ claims and defenses, as well as the facts brought to the trial court’s attention that might support a conclusion that the mental condition of these particular parties and these particular children were ‘in controversy.'”

In this case, the Court found there was ample evidence to find that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in compelling the parties to submit to psychological examinations:

In March of 2007, the parties entered into an Agreed Order that neither party would “threaten or harass” the other. The record contains  correspondence between the parties concerning the exchange of the parties’ minor daughter referencing Mr. Gentile’s “repeated displays of  hostility and rage toward Ms. Gentile.” Mr. Gentile admits using obscenities towards his wife at a visitation exchange. The record shows the parties were recording and videotaping exchanges. Various accusations were made. While the foregoing does not constitute proof of the matters alleged, the fact of the types of allegations and undisputed behavior by the parties certainly would lead the court to conclude that the mental, or psychological, condition of the parties was in controversy.

Gentile v. Gentile (Tenn. Ct. App. July 19, 2010).

Information provided by K.O. Herston, Tennessee Divorce Lawyer.

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K.O. Herston is a family-law attorney in Knoxville, Tennessee whose practice is devoted exclusively to family law, including divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, prenuptial agreements, and other aspects of family law.

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