California family courts strive to decide in the best interest of the child when custody issues arise. However, it can be difficult for a judge to know what's in the child's best interest from the brief interactions they have with the family. A process known as a 730 evaluation can help the court better understand each parent and make a more informed decision. If you are going through a 730 evaluation or want the other parent to do so, hiring an experienced Los Angeles child custody lawyer can help.
The 730 evaluation is essentially a study of the family members and their relationship. The primary intent is to restructure parental rights and responsibilities with their children. The evaluation can be requested by parents or ordered by a family court judge if spouses are unable to reach an agreement on the best child custody arrangement.
A spouse can't just show up in family court and give the judge a one-sided verbal argument in an attempt to get the judge to rule in their favor. There has to be valid evidence to support their position on child custody.
The family court judge will frequently depend on the opinion of a mental health professional who will provide them with a description of the spouses and their interactions. This expert evaluation typically includes a recommendation to the court on what on what they believe is in the best interests of the child.
In some cases, the judge might even call the expert to court to provide testimony to explain why they made the recommendation, or they could even order further study on the child custody issue. It should be noted that family courts judges are frequently inclined to accept their opinion.
To give readers more information about the 730 custody evaluation, our Los Angeles divorce and family law attorneys are providing an overview below.
What is a 730 Child Custody Evaluation?
The term “730 evaluation” refers to California Evidence Code 730 that grants courts the power to ask for expert opinions from qualified appointed professionals. The section of the code applies to all types of court cases, including criminal, civil, and family courts. In custody cases, the term “730 evaluation,” usually refers to the judge getting expert psychological evaluations on one or both parents.
Sometimes, parents or court mediators request these evaluations. In these cases, the judge still has ultimate authority over whether or not to order the evaluation. Sometimes, the judge orders a 730 child custody evaluation without prompting.
A 730 evaluation is an assessment of the family and the child's relationships with their parents and other members of the family. It also reviews the current living arrangements through a series of evaluations.
As stated, the family court judge frequently relies on the opinion of mental health experts in order to decide what is in the best interests of the children. The 730 evaluation gives the judge the authority to order experts to investigate and evaluate a family in a custody child case. Parents can request an evaluation, or the judge will assign an evaluator.
The evaluators are required to complete annual training and certification. Many of them have advanced college degrees in mental health and working exclusively in family law issues. They must remain impartial during evaluations and act as an expert rather than a mediator. The primary goal of 730 evaluators is to decide best interests of the children involved in a custody case.
What Happens During a 730 Child Custody Evaluation?
Exactly what occurs during an evaluation depends on the scope of the order. It may involve interviews with parents, observations of each parent with the child, and interviews with other people in the family's life. The evaluator may need to consult with doctors, therapists, and/or social workers that have been involved with the family before.
How long the evaluation takes can also depend on the scope of the order and the timeliness of all involved parties. Sometimes, the evaluations can include several appointments spread out over weeks. In more narrow cases, the evaluation may only take a few hours.
Parents who are preparing for a 730 evaluation s need to know what to expect. They will be informed about what type of information they have to disclose. A 730 evaluation is more comprehensive than a routine child custody investigation.
The evaluator examines the family's medical and mental health history and investigates any history of substance abuse, child abuse, neglect, and domestic violence,
Who Conducts the Evaluation?
Only a qualified psychological and trained professional can conduct a 730 child custody evaluation. This may include:
- Marriage and Family Therapists
- Certain social workers
The type of evaluation that the court needs will often determine what kind of professional becomes the evaluator. Each court has a different way of appointing evaluators. Some have a list from which they appoint. Others allow parents to choose from a list.
In some cases, evaluations must include more than one professional. For example, a marriage and family therapist may oversee the evaluation, but need to consult a psychologist in order to make a mental health diagnosis.
Sometimes, the evaluator looks for specific issues in the lives of one or both parents. For example, extensive evaluations may be necessary in order to identify:
- Substantial mental health issues
- Substance abuse
- Domestic or emotional abuse
These are not the only issues that warrant 730 child custody evaluations. However, they may require that the court consult specialists in these areas, such as a psychologist who primarily treats people with substance use disorders.
Tips for Parents Going Through 730 Evaluations
The idea of having someone tell the court whether or not you are a fit parent can be daunting. We know that this is a stressful situation for all parents. Following a few important guidelines can make the process easier on you and your family:
- Be honest
- Arrive on time, wearing appropriate clothing, and with all the documents you need for the appointments
- Never coach children on what to say about you or the other parent
- As questions
- Demonstrate that your children are your top priority, not “winning” against the other parent or serving your own interests
- Always treat the evaluator and everyone else involved with respect and kindness
Perhaps the most important guideline is this: follow advice from your personal Los Angeles child custody lawyer. Your attorney will know your case best and can give you more specific instructions to protect you and your child.
What Happens When the Evaluation is Complete?
When the evaluator completes all the necessary steps to understand the parents, they will write a report of the findings. At least ten days prior to the next court appointment, that report will become available to both parents, their lawyers, and the court.
If you disagree with something that the report finds, you can request a new evaluation. It's important to remember that the evaluator's report does not solely determine what happens in the case. Instead, the court uses it as one piece of evidence in the case.
You do not have to go through the grueling 730 evaluation process alone. As experienced child custody lawyers, we can guide you through the process and protect your rights.
Furman & Zavatsky are Los Angeles divorce and family law attorneys located at 15821 Ventura Blvd #690 Encino, CA 91436. Contact us for a free case evaluation at (818) 528-3471.