What is a 730 Evaluation in Child Custody?
A 730 Evaluation occurs when the court appoints an expert to the case to assist the court in making a decision. The court’s authority to appoint an expert comes from Evidence Code 730, which provides a family court the right to appoint an expert to help the court decide a particular issue.
We commonly see 730 Evaluations in contested custody matters where the one or both parents make allegations of child abuse, or when one parent is requesting to move the children to another county, state or country.
How do 730 Evaluations work?
In a custody case, the appointed expert must meet required licensing requirements in order to be appointed as an expert to the matter. Typically, most child custody evaluators are board certified psychiatrists, psychologists, marriage and family therapists, or social workers. The expert must consider the children’s health, safety, and welfare by reviewing documents which will include the pleadings filed in the case by either party, therapist letters, police reports, Domestic Violence or Civil Harassment Restraining Orders, and civil and criminal case reports.
Child custody experts will typically interview the children, their parents, significant others, relatives, teachers, therapists, and any and all witnesses that could provide relevant information regarding the welfare of the children. They may also meet with each parent and the children together to observe the parent-child relationship. The parents of the children may also be interviewed together to assess co-parenting issues, and may also have each parent psychologically assessed tested to determine personality, mental health, and parenting and co-parenting issues that arise from each parent’s psychological assessment.
What is a 730 Report and Recommendation?
730 Child Custody Evaluators condense all the information that the expert believes is relevant to the Court into a “730 Report and Recommendation”. These reports contain findings that the expert believes are important for the Court to consider regarding parental decision-making, parenting time, and boundary setting for parents and their significant others. Both the report and the recommendations are often scrutinized by experienced family law attorneys for both gaps in the “facts” and the methodology the expert used in making its recommendations to the Court.
Can you challenge the findings of a 730 evaluation?
730 Child Custody Evaluations often bring resolution to the case. When they don’t, experts are usually called to testify in court. The parties and counsel will spend significant time questioning the expert in an attempt to strengthen or discredit their testimony. In some cases, a party who wishes for the Court to disregard or discredit the expert’s report will hire an outside expert—called a 733 Evaluator—to review and prepare a secondary report. The report by the 733 expert does not offer own recommendation, but seeks to attack the 730 expert’s findings.
Ultimately, the Court is the ultimate decision-maker when it comes to child custody orders. However, in complex custody cases where there are allegations of abuse, a move away request, or major co-parenting issues, a 730 expert can serve as a powerful tool for the court as it attempts to reach difficult decisions regarding custody issues.
It is highly recommended that a party who is going through a contested custody matter with a court ordered evaluation have a competent custody attorney to advise and represent them throughout this process.