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What are 730 Child Custody Evaluations? Giving you the upper-hand during this difficult time.

California 730 Child Custody Evaluations

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A child custody evaluation is a divorce proceeding where both parents cannot agree on which of them should have primary physical custody of their minor children. These child custody evaluations are called “730 Evaluations.” They are specific to California, and the number “730” refers to California’s Evidence Code Section 730. Our San Bernardino child custody evaluation lawyers at the Law Office of Michael R. Young are experienced in these types of cases and can answer your questions about 730 Evaluations.

What Is a 730 Evaluation?

A family court judge will order a child custody evaluation when they want to take an in-depth look at one or both parents’ mental state and parenting. This evaluation is meant to give the judge a window into the relationships between the minor children and each family member, including any prospective members of the family, in order to determine which parent is better suited to take primary physical custody. In addition, either parent can request a 730 Evaluation during the divorce proceeding—subject to approval by the judge—or both parties can agree to request a 730 Evaluation by filing a “stipulation.”

When Is a 730 Evaluation Needed?

If custody and visitation rights are at issue in a divorce proceeding, a judge will order a 730 Evaluation to determine what solution would be in the best interests of the child.

Since court orders regarding child custody or visitation are often based on the findings of 730 Evaluations, a judge could order an evaluation due to such factors as:

  • Possible child abuse / neglect
  • Drug / alcohol abuse
  • Mental illness
  • Proposed relocation of one parent, objected to by the other parent
  • Disagreement between parents on custody arrangements
  • Concerns about how the child is being raised
  • Concerns about parenting practices

Who Conducts a 730 Evaluation?

Once ordered, the 730 Evaluation is conducted by a court-appointed “evaluator.” The evaluator’s intent is to determine what would be in the best interest of the child.

In California, an evaluator may be a:

  • Psychiatrist
  • Psychologist
  • Social worker

While marriage / family therapists may conduct custody evaluations, formal psychological testing can only be completed by a trained psychologist. Even if a psychologist serves as an evaluator, he or she may rely on another psychologist to complete the testing and then interpret the test. It is important to note that the tester does not make custody recommendations; the evaluator does. The evaluator must then provide a formal report to the court, which includes psychological test results.

What Happens During a 730 Evaluation?

730 Evaluations consist of several interviews with the child or children and all of the adults involved in their lives:

  • Parents
  • Stepparents
  • Live-in grandparents
  • Any other relative who plays a key role in the child’s life
  • Prospective family members who may play a role in the child’s life

These interviews can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. If needed, it may also involve psychological testing to evaluate the personalities of each person and the family dynamics. Psychological testing could potentially uncover any mental health or parenting problems. With young children, the interviews are generally conducted as play sessions. Generally, the type of testing or interview conducted is determined by the evaluator in order to further understand what is in the child’s best interest.

The 730 Evaluation Process: Step by Step

The child’s best interests are determined by a custody evaluation, which is typically completed in stages over a longer period of time.

Usually, the 730 Evaluation process involves the following steps:

  • Interviews with parents
  • Observation of parents with children
  • Psychological tests of parents and children
  • Interviews with friends, teachers, counselors, pediatricians, and other third parties
  • Observation of other family and third parties with children
  • Review of reports and other data from evaluator
  • Home visit

It should be noted that in some California jurisdictions, a “Mini-Evaluation” or “Focused-Issue Evaluation” may be ordered. Some courts will issue such an order in an effort to try to speed things up or to find an answer to a particular question. Caution should be taken if the court orders such an evaluation. Any number of issues may arise that would benefit from a full 730 Evaluation rather than a mini-evaluation.

Who Chooses the Evaluator?

In California, either:

  • The judge selects an evaluator
  • The judge asks the parties to provide a list of evaluators, which the judge will then choose from
  • In some situations, both parents are allowed to agree on an evaluator of their choosing

However, all 730 Evaluators must meet certain criteria. If you are able to choose the evaluator for your case, our San Bernardino child custody evaluation attorneys at the Law Office of Michael R. Young have experience with evaluators and can recommend one to you. Most judges and attorneys have preferences based on the evaluator’s reputation as being “neutral”—i.e., not pro-mother or pro-father—and their timeliness.

As with any profession, some evaluators are more efficient and thorough than others. If you have the opportunity to choose an evaluator, gather as much information as you can. For example, a custody evaluator should be able to provide you with their resume and credentials. It is also a good idea to ask the evaluator about their views on shared custody, shared parenting, and / or move-away cases.

What Can I Expect After the Evaluation?

After the evaluator concludes their investigation, he or she will:

  • Summarize the findings
  • Detail how the investigation was conducted
  • Make certain recommendations to the court

The report is given to the court or the judge and to each parent’s lawyer. The report must be submitted early in order to give the parties the opportunity to examine its results and object if necessary.

If both parents accept the report, they can submit the entire report into evidence. If they disagree, each party will have an opportunity to challenge any findings in the report before the judge and question the evaluator on their findings. The evaluator can be called into court to testify, defend, or provide an explanation as to his or her recommendations. In some instances, the court may ask the evaluator to investigate a little more. While the information, findings, and recommendations made by the evaluator are given great consideration, ultimately the judge has the authority in ordering who should have primary physical custody and how the visitation schedule should be structured.

What Can I Do If I Disagree with the Results of the Evaluation?

You have the right to challenge the findings of a 730 Evaluation. If parents or lawyers disagree with the results, they can depose the individual who conducted the evaluation, or ask the evaluator to the witness stand to undergo cross-examination. It’s also a good idea to speak with an outside medical expert / mental illness professional for a review of the evaluation. Your attorney can ask for a formal testimony from this expert to be included in your case, and can also ask the expert to testify.

Should you have any questions or need information about 730 Evaluations or any other family law matter, we encourage you to call our office as soon as possible. We provide case evaluations for all potential clients.

Contact us today for more information.

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