HANNAH ANN CULBERTSON v. RANDALL ERIC CULBERTSON - Articles

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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Apr 30, 2014

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Rachael E. Putnam and Austin T. Rainey, Memphis, Tennessee, for the Defendant/Appellant, Randall Eric Culbertson

Attorneys 2:

Amy J. Amundsen and Mary L. Wagner, Memphis, Tennessee, for the Plaintiff/Appellee, Hannah Ann Culbertson

Judge(s): KIRBY

This is the second extraordinary interlocutory appeal in this divorce case and custody dispute. In the first appeal, this Court held that the father did not automatically waive the psychologist-client privilege as to his mental health records by seeking custody or by defending against the mother’s claims that he was mentally unfit. While the first appeal was pending, the mother filed a motion asking the trial court to require the father to undergo a second mental health evaluation pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 35; the trial court granted the motion. The Rule 35 evaluating psychologist concluded that the father did not pose a danger to his children. Dissatisfied with this conclusion, the mother again asked the trial court to compel the father to produce all of the mental health records from his treating psychologists. After this Court rendered its decision in the first appeal, the trial court granted the mother’s request and again ordered the father to produce all of the mental health records from his treating psychologists. The trial court reasoned that the father waived the psychologist-client privilege as to all of his mental health records by allowing the evaluating psychologists to speak to his treating psychologists, by providing mental health records to the evaluating psychologists, and by testifying that he had a history of depression and had undergone treatment for it. It also ordered the father to produce all of his mental health records because the mother needed them to prepare her case. The father filed a request for a second extraordinary appeal, which this Court granted. We vacate the trial court’s order as inconsistent with this Court’s holding in the first appeal; we hold that there was at most a limited waiver of the psychologist-client privilege, only as to the privileged mental health information that the father voluntarily disclosed to the two evaluating psychologists involved in this case. As for mental health records not subject to a limited waiver of the privilege, we hold that the standard for the trial court to compel disclosure of the records is not met in this case. We remand the case for factual findings on any privileged mental health records the father voluntarily disclosed and other proceedings consistent with this opinion.

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