‘How do I get a psychiatric assessment of a parent of three young children?’

Narcissistic personality disorder and a family separation

Question: Within the context of family law, how does a parent go about getting a psychiatric assessment of a parent of three young children and insuring the assessor is good enough given that the assessee may suffer from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)?

It is my understanding that successful assessment of a NPD person is difficult due to their deceitful, manipulative nature that may have been evolving over many decades for even an experienced professional to succeed. I think it would be wrong to do nothing as the welfare of others is at stake but obviously it is important that the best approach be taken to try and insure an accurate outcome.

All advice would be very much welcome. Thank you.

Answer: From your question it is not clear if you are inquiring for yourself or someone else, but for simplicity I will address the question as if you are inquiring about your own situation. Before going down the route of a family assessment, it is important to first be clear about what you are hoping to achieve.


It sounds like you have been dealing with manipulative or deceitful behaviour from a partner for many years and are now going through an acrimonious separation – this is of course very challenging to go through. You might be hoping that a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder will help you feel justified or vindicate your experience, but this is not the role of a court assessment.

A family court judge can seek an expert assessment (usually under section 47 of the Child Care Act) to advise on the best custody and access arrangements for the children. The assessor is a mental health professional who should be impartial to the dispute between the parents and be focused on determining the best interest of the children. Ideally, the process should be therapeutic and the recommendations centred on trying to reduce conflict, increase agreement and preserving the children’s relationships with both parents.

Manipulative behaviour

Even if there has been manipulative behaviour or “narcissistic” behaviour on the part of one parent, the goal is about moving forward to make the best arrangements for the children. Your solicitor will be able to advise you on the exact legal process of seeking a court assessment and how the professional doing the assessment might be selected.

However, before you take action, I would suggest you try to visualise what is the best outcome of this process for you and your children. You need to also consider what might be an acceptable outcome to your children's other parent and what the family court might approve. I am aware that parental separation can be a painful and conflictual process so I would also recommend that you seek your own therapeutic support. Onefamily.ie have a helpline, provide counselling as well as group support and courses for parents going through separation.

The better supported you are, the better you will be able consider the best options for yourself and your children.

- John Sharry is founder of the Parents Plus Charity and an adjunct professor at the UCD School of Psychology. See solutiontalk.ie