If you’ve been looking around for information on the 730 Evaluation,
you probably have come to realize that there’s scant – reliable
– information that tells you what to expect. The Courts rely on
California Evidence Code §730 (ref: leginfo.ca.gov) to appoint a child custody evaluator (thus the “730”
designation). Evaluators are usually a licensed professional behavioral
practitioner (e.g., family therapist, licensed clinical social worker,
psychiatrists, psychologists) that have completed specialized
domestic violence and child
abuse training programs.
In the area of Family Law, most 730 experts are appointed to gather facts
from any person or persons that have an intimate relationship with the
parents and children, conduct psychological testing, and provide the Court
with a recommended custody arrangement based on what they believe is appropriate
It is more likely that the court will appoint a child custody evaluator
in any contested proceeding involving child custody or visitation rights.
The goal, of course, is to determine what is in the child's best interest.
The Court will likely order a “730 Eval” in cases involving
move-away or when there is a history of domestic violence, mental abuse, drinking
or drug use by either party. The Court may appoint a 730 evaluator even
when abuse history is not recent. Any competent attorney should be able
to gain a favorable outcome when the abuse (domestic violence, drug use
et cetera) is more recent.
In my experience, a judge rarely appoints a child custody evaluator unless
the parties stipulate to an evaluation. Child Custody Evaluators can get
very expensive and a judge will not impose these kinds of expenses unless
it is necessary. In some cases, a judge may order payments made to the
evaluator in installments. Often times, there is so much animosity between
the parties that they each want to prove to each other via a third party
that they are the better parent. If emotions run high enough, money may
be no object.
Personally, I believe that 730 eval should be avoided. Both sides ought
to realize that it is not in the best interest of the children put them
in such difficult and compromising position. Evaluations can be very intrusive,
moreover it places a child in the untenable position of having to choose
between two parents. However, if the situation is unavoidable, and funds
are short, a court appointed child custody mediator may be a better choice.
This is a free service, a can likely save each party a lot of money.
Note that the mediator is mandatory in any case where an Order to Show
Cause (for Custody and Visitation) has been filed.