What is a 730 Child Custody Evaluation?
Deriving its’ name from California Evidence Code §730, a “730” is typically where a court, on its own motion or on motion of any party, appoints an expert to investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding a highly disputed and contested child custody request. This expert conducts as in-depth study and analysis of the "family, it’s members, and/or it’s prospective members", and their relationships to, and parenting of the child(ren) involved in the custody dispute. Evaluations will typically also include mental health testing of each parent and any children involved, and interviews of third parties that have knowledge of the parents interaction with the child(ren). The evaluation is carried out, over a three (3) to six (6) month period, with the intent of determining what types of custodial orders and visitation schedule would be in the "child's best interest", while also evaluating whether or not certain protections or procedures should be put in place to protect the child’s best interest, both now and in the future.
If the child custody evaluator is appointed by the court, that evaluator will prepare a report; that report is typically permitted to be used as evidence by the court in determining what orders should be made in the child custody dispute. However, if the court does not specifically permit this report to come into evidence over hearsay and foundation objections, the evaluator, most likely, will have to appear to testify as to his findings and to introduce his report into evidence.
There are three ways the 730 evaluation process can be started:
- A judge can order both parties to submit to one.
- One side may request one (said request subject to approval by the judge)
- By stipulation, meaning both parties agree to it.
Selecting an Evaluator:
The evaluator can be a licensed clinical psychologist, licensed psychiatrist, Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT), Marriage, Family, and Child Counselor (MFCC), or Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).
- The judge may chose the evaluator from a list the court maintains
- The judge will ask the parties to submit a list of acceptable evaluators from which he or she will choose
- With the help of the attorneys in the case who know various evaluators and their reputation in the community, the two sides will mutually agree on an evaluator
How do I challenge a 730 Evaluation’s Recommendations?
In order for a court to be able to rely on the child custody evaluator’s recommendations, the court has to be able to trust that the information gathered was done so in a fair and equitable manner and that the information was interpreted in a reasonable fashion. To ensure that the child custody evaluation is conducted in a manner that the court can rely on, the California Rules of Court have outlined certain procedures and practices for conducting child custody evaluations.
In addition, the individual evaluators, depending on their credentials, may be bound by their own professional guidelines; these guidelines may also provide the expert with guidance as to how information should be collected and interpreted. The failure to comply with the Rules of Court or the standard guidelines of the evaluator’s profession may give rise to a belief that the recommendations are not reliable and may provide the court with enough reason to disregard the recommendations and to interject a different judgment as to what orders should be issued.
This information can be advanced to the court through cross-examination of the expert, or through the introduction of another expert’s testimony (see 733 expert).
Additionally, an attorney or a judge may challenge the evaluation from a legal perspective; they could examine the reports admissibility, the substance of the report, the application of law to the facts gathered, and the weight that should be given to the facts and/or the recommendations.
If you have any further questions or need additional information about our Family Law services, please do not hesitate to call (714) 441-5905.