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20 Aug. 2012

730 Evaluations

Posted By The Buncher Law Corporation

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 and sound.

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.

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