Going through a California divorce is emotionally challenging for parents and children. Focusing on what is best for your children can help ensure the decisions made around their healthy being are in their best interest.
When two people divorce, other issues may convolute or influence decision-making, and you and your ex-spouse may disagree on how your child’s arrangement should be during or after your divorce.
If you are going through a California divorce and are considering requesting a 730 evaluation or if the judge is ordering one to be completed for your case, it is essential to understand what it entails. Hiring an experienced divorce attorney to help you through the process is vital. We will discuss California 730 evaluations, what they are, their purpose, and what to expect.
What Is A California 730 Evaluation?
California Evidence Code Section 730 authorizes these types of evaluations, and a 730 evaluation is an assessment of your family. You, your spouse, or the judge may request one to look into your or your ex’s parenting practices or mental health. The focus of this evaluation is directly related to what would best support your child and what is in their best interest.
When Is A 730 Evaluation Needed?
When the judge, you, or your ex-spouse believes that your child’s best interest is not being served, the court can order a 730 evaluation. Some of the issues that may trigger this type of investigation include the following:
- Alleged mental health problems
- Suspected child abuse
- Concerns about substance abuse
- If one parent wants to move out of state and the other parent objects
- Parental disagreement on child custody
- Possible parenting practices that could have a negative effect on the child
Who Can Conduct a 730 Evaluation?
The court will appoint a qualified mental health professional to conduct the 730 evaluation. You or your spouse may not choose your evaluator specifically; however, in some cases, the judge will ask each party to submit a list of possible evaluators. The evaluator appointed by the court will be:
- Social worker
- Marriage or family therapist; however, if any formal psychological testing is necessary, only a trained psychiatrist or psychologist can perform it.
The evaluator chosen must remain objective and protect confidentiality throughout the entire process. They can only make recommendations about either party once that party is evaluated. The evaluators must always keep the child’s best interests in mind and can’t pressure children to say if they prefer to live with one parent or the other.
Who Pays For A California 730 Evaluation?
It is up to the court to determine who will pay for the 730 evaluation. It can be divided and doesn’t have to be 50/50, or the court can require one party to pay for everything.
What Is The Process Of California 730 Evaluation?
Once the court assigns the evaluator to the case, they will assess the family. They will learn about the children’s relationship with parents and other family members and the children’s living arrangements. The evaluator’s goal is to determine what is in the child’s best interest. The evaluator may take some time to complete the process.
- Observe interactions between each parent and the children or child, both together and separately. In cases of domestic violence, however, the parents will not be interviewed together
- Review any documents that relate to child custody
- Review documents such as police or hospital records
- Interview family members as well as step-parents, siblings, and step or half-siblings
- Consult with other experts, including psychologists and psychiatrists for psychological testing
The evaluator will compile all the information into a file to develop a recommendation for the court.
In general, the evaluator can’t communicate with the divorce attorney for any one party without involving both parties. One exception will be if the evaluator needs to schedule an appointment or find out if there is any conflict of interest. However, the court can authorize communication between a court-appointed attorney for the child and the evaluator.
If at any time the evaluator believes a restraining order is necessary to protect one party or the child, they can communicate that also. Social workers, psychiatrists, and psychologists are mandatory reporters; if they know or suspect child abuse or endangerment, they must report it to the authorities.
Questions The Evaluator Can Ask During The Interview
The evaluator can ask questions they find relevant to the investigation during the interview. The questions they ask will help them to assess the case and each parent. What the evaluator is looking for is:
- Each parent’s ability to respond to their child’s needs
- Each parent’s ability to set age-appropriate limits for the child
- How or if the parent works towards resolutions
- How much each parent is or has been involved in the child’s life, or has taken care of the child in the past
- Whether or not there has been a history of domestic violence, child abuse, substance abuse, or psychiatric illness by either parent
- Both parent’s social and psychological functioning
What Happens After A California 730 Evaluation?
The evaluator will the report to the court and must:
- Summarize their findings and how long they spent on the evaluation
- Present all relevant information, even if it doesn’t support the conclusion
- Describe any limitation in the evaluation that comes from them being unable to get information, whether it is a parent’s failure to cooperate or the circumstances of the interview
- Make visitation or custody recommendations
- Provide clear and detailed recommendations that reflect the child’s best interest
What If You Disagree With The Evaluator’s Findings?
A judge will decide on the custody arrangement you and your spouse will have. If you disagree, your attorney can ask the court to appoint another mental health professional to review the evaluation and give testimony about their findings.
Working with your ex-spouse to reach an agreement that serves your child’s best interest will usually avoid having a judge order a California 730 evaluation.
What Is A Mini California 730 Evaluation?
In certain circumstances, 730 evaluations can be minimized and only focus on one issue to speed up the process.
Hire An Experienced Divorce Attorney To Help You
If you are going through a divorce involving children and have questions about California 730 evaluation, hiring an experienced family law attorney is vital. Your attorney can answer any questions and help protect you and your family.
At Azemika & Azemika, we are here to help you navigate the complex legal system of family law and support you in ensuring the best interest of your child and family is our top priority. Our partners have a combined total of over 56 years of experience in family law. We can help you with divorce, child custody and visitation, child support or alimony, adoption, or other family law cases. Contact us today for a consultation!