A judge always decides competency in civil proceedings because it is a legal term. Most often, the judge will inform their decision based on a forensic neuropsychological evaluation or other mental health professionals’ testimony and documented work. The evaluation of competency in civil proceedings refers to the person having the ability to understand and appreciate the consequences of his or her actions with regard to the decision they made.
A person found incompetent carries a significant consequence in that they can be deprived of their rights with potential subsequent psychosocial stressors (e.g., financial hardships, emotional distress, etc.). This is why it is important to retain a forensic neuropsychologist skilled in such evaluations. These evaluations are often requested when there is a question or concern about an individual executing a will, opening or modifying a trust account, assigning power of attorney, ability to sign a contract to purchase property, or making medical directives.
Three types of civil competency evaluations based on the examples above are:
- Testamentary Capacity (e.g., ability to make a valid will)
- Contractual Capacity (e.g., ability to sign a contract to buy a car, house, etc.)
- Medical Decision Capacity (e.g., ability to have informed consent and make decisions regarding treatment)
- Consultation with the client’s attorney to review the case the obtain the legal questions that need to be answered, and determine which of the competency evaluations are needed.
- A clinical interview with the client to assess for psychological and neuropsychological factors that can impact decision-making.
- A collateral interview with a member of the family, close friend, or caregiver. The interview will assist us in gaining general background information and details regarding their current cognitive and psychological functioning.
- A review of medical, legal, and psychiatric treatment records.
- We will administer objective psychological and neuropsychological tests to assess for psychiatric symptoms, disorders, and cognitive abilities.
Last, we will write an articulate, objective, and relevancy-based report in simple language that integrates our findings based on data, including answering the criterions of the psycho-legal question. Like all of our forensic reports, the report will incorporate the relevant legal statutes and case law. Furthermore, our reports discuss and analyze information that may be contradictory to the forensic opinion.