ASSEMBLY, No. 412

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

214th LEGISLATURE

 

PRE-FILED FOR INTRODUCTION IN THE 2010 SESSION

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblyman  PATRICK J. DIEGNAN, JR.

District 18 (Middlesex)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Limits actions against court-appointed psychologists and psychiatrists in certain Family Court matters.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     Introduced Pending Technical Review by Legislative Counsel

  


An Act concerning certain proceedings in family court and supplementing Title 2A of the New Jersey Statutes.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.    a. Notwithstanding the provisions of any other law, a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist who has been appointed by the Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part as a child custody evaluator, therapist, mediator, parent coordinator, parent educator, case manager, or similar position shall be presumed to be acting in good faith, consistent with accepted ethical standards of the profession, and shall be presumed to have reasonably complied with: (1) the regulations and requirements of the applicable professional licensing boards, and (2) all other applicable statutes and regulations.

     b.    (1) No party in a proceeding in the Family Part that involves a child custody evaluation, therapy, mediation, parent education, or case management in which a psychologist or psychiatrist has been appointed pursuant to subsection a. of this section may bring an action or complaint against the psychologist or psychiatrist in any court in this State or any professional licensing board unless the party first obtains the approval of that court pursuant to paragraph (2) of this subsection.  

     (2)   Approval shall be granted only if the party overcomes the presumptions set forth in section a. of this act.  The presumptions may be overcome if the party shows by clear and convincing evidence that the psychologist or psychiatrist engaged in intentional misconduct or acted in a reckless or grossly negligent manner in violation of: (a) accepted standards of mental health care, (b) accepted ethical standards of the profession, (c) a regulation or requirement of the applicable professional licensing board, or (d) any other applicable statute or regulation.

     (3)   In any civil action or administrative proceeding, the psychologist or psychiatrist shall be immune from liability for any act or omission committed within the scope of his court-ordered appointment unless he is found by clear and convincing evidence to have acted in a reckless or grossly negligent manner or engaged in intentional misconduct, and such reckless or grossly negligent conduct or intentional misconduct was the proximate cause of the injury or damage alleged. 

     c.     A psychologist or psychiatrist who prevails in any administrative or civil action pursuant to this act shall be awarded reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.


     2.    This act shall take effect immediately and shall be applicable to all matters filed with the court or filed with a licensing board and not yet dismissed or finally adjudicated as of the effective date.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill would limit actions against court-appointed psychologists and psychiatrists by parties in family court.

     Under the bill, a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist who has been appointed by the Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part as a child custody evaluator, therapist, mediator, parent coordinator, parent educator, case manager, or any similar position would be presumed to be acting in good faith, consistent with accepted ethical standards of the profession, and be presumed to have reasonably complied with: (1) the regulations and requirements of the applicable professional licensing boards, and (2) all other applicable statutes and regulations.

     The bill requires a party in a family court proceeding that   involves a child custody evaluation, therapy, mediation, parent education, or case management in which a psychologist or psychiatrist has been appointed to first obtain the approval of the court before bringing an action or complaint against that person in any court or any professional licensing board.

     Approval would be granted only if the party overcomes the presumptions provided by the bill.  The presumptions may be overcome if the party shows by clear and convincing evidence that the psychologist or psychiatrist engaged in intentional misconduct or acted in a reckless or grossly negligent manner in violation of: (a) accepted standards of mental health care, (b) accepted ethical standards of the profession, (c) a regulation or requirement of the applicable professional licensing board, or (d) any other applicable statute or regulation.

     Under the bill, in any civil action or administrative proceeding the psychologist or psychiatrist would be immune from liability for any act or omission committed within the scope of his court-ordered appointment unless he is found by clear and convincing evidence to have acted in a reckless or grossly negligent manner or engaged in intentional misconduct, and such reckless or grossly negligent conduct or intentional misconduct was the proximate cause of the injury or damage alleged. 

     The bill also provides that a psychologist or psychiatrist who prevails in any administrative or civil action would be awarded reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.