Child Custody Evaluations

With the amount of contentious divorce cases steadily rising, there are more and more demands by the courts for unbiased and scientifically conducted psychological evaluations, to help the courts determine what kind of custody arrangement would indeed be "In the best interest of the child, or children".

The 730 Evaluation: Overview

Child custody evaluations have become quite commonplace in the family courts, in order to find a parenting plan or custody arrangement, which is   "in the best interest of the child" , when parents have been or are unable to do so. In California, a child custody evaluation may be ordered under California Evidence Code Section §730. They are also referred to as Section 3111, per California Family Code.

However, there is much skepticism and growing criticism, concerns, and/or controversy in regards to the validity, accuracy, and/or quality of these evaluations and how they are conducted and the qualifications of those who are conducting them ("evaluators").

Let us educate ourselves on custody evaluations or 730 evaluations and also understand the controversies surrounding them and what one can do to prepare.
What is a 730 Evaluation?
In California, a child custody evaluation or "730 Evaluation", can be described as an in-depth study and investitgation of the "family, it’s members, and/or prospective members" and their relationship with the children. The evaluation is carried out by an "evaluator" with the intent of helping the court determine what custody, visitation, and/or parenting arrangement would be in the " the best interest of the child/children"
The evaluation usually takes place over a period of time set out by the judge or evaluator (sometimes weeks and sometimes months) and includes a recommendation for what would be  "in the best interest of the child", which the court is inclined to adopt. The evaluator can be called into court to testify or be cross examined. The evaluator will then have to answer questions and explain to the judge the recommendations and sometimes will be ordered to conduct a further study into the matter.
In some counties, a  "fast track evaluation", also known as a "partial evaluation" or "mini-evaluation", can be ordered. It is referred to as a "fast track evaluation", "partial evaluation", or "mini evaluation" because it is less extensive than the typical evaluation. This may be requested to speed up things, or when the scope of the evaluation can be reduced such as when the court wants to know the answer to a particular question. It is essential to determine if a "mini-evaluation" is right for your situation because if there are any issues that are significant to your case that requires a more in-depth look or study, it would be highly unlikely this would surface or enough compelling evidence will be even examined in such a short period of time.
Under obligation to the court, at the end of the evaluation, the evaluator will submit their findings and recommendations to the judge prior to the hearing. In a full evaluation this is generally in the form of a written report and with a fast track evaluation this is often in the form of an oral report.
In legal terms, California Evidence Code Section §730 states:
When it appears to the court, at any time before or during the trial of an action, that expert evidence is or may be required by the court or by any party to the action, the court on its own motion or on motion of any party may appoint one or more experts to investigate, to render a report as may be ordered by the court, and to testify as an expert at the trial of the action relative to the fact or matter as to which the expert evidence is or may be required. The court may fix the compensation for these services, if any, rendered by any person appointed under this section, in addition to any service as a witness, at the amount as seems reasonable to the court. Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit a person to perform any act for which a license is required unless the person holds the appropriate license to lawfully perform that act.

 
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