When parents are unable to come to certain agreements about child custody and visitation, a custody evaluation can be a useful tool to provide the Court with necessary information about what is in the child(ren)’s best interest.
A 730 Evaluation is named after the code section, Evidence Code Section 730. A 730 evaluator is the Court’s appointed expert and is not hired by either party. The evaluation is intended to be an unbiased and objective investigation into the facts regarding your custody dispute.
Custody evaluations provide the Court with necessary findings and recommendations from a licensed mental health professional which allows them to determine what custody and visitation arrangement is best for the child(ren). Some of the reasons a custody evaluation may be ordered include:
- Incidents of Domestic Violence.
- Allegations of Child Abuse.
- Substance abuse.
- One parent’s request to relocate with the minor child.
- Disagreements about parenting practices.
- Alienation by one or both parents.
- Parents are unable to agree on custody and visitation arrangement.
A typical evaluation can take 1-3 months, but sometimes longer depending on scope of the investigation and any allegations or concerns of either party. While each mental health professional has a slightly different approach to conducting a custody evaluation, generally, the inquiry will include:
- Interviewing each parent.
- Observe each parent with the child(ren).
- Psychological testing, if mental health is at issue.
- Interviews with collateral parties such as family, friends, day care providers, teachers, or doctors.
- Review of medical reports, if appropriate.
- Home visits.
Results of an Evaluation.
Once the custody evaluator completes his or her investigation, a report will be circulated to all parties involved. If the parties agree with the report, they can choose to adopt the order and avoid further court hearings. If either party objects to the recommendations, they can issue objections that are served on both the other side and the custody evaluator and a hearing is set (typically this hearing is already scheduled with the Court).
If You Disagree with the Recommendation or Findings of the Custody Evaluator.
Since the ultimate decision is up to the Court, the Evaluator’s recommendations and findings are not final until the Court adopts those recommendations and findings and makes them a Court Order.
If you are the objecting party, you can choose to hire an independent expert to review the evaluation and provide testimony in Court about your objections. Each party can present further testimony and evidence to the Court where the Court will decide what is in the child(ren)’s best interest.