How 730 Evaluations Work in California
As the old saying goes, there are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth. Nowhere is this more applicable in the legal system than in family law matters, where spouses in divorce proceedings often have radically different interpretations of the same set of facts. Diverging stories like these are frequently problematic in child custody and visitation matters, where courts must determine what is in the best interests of the child regardless of what either parent thinks. In such cases, California courts often order 730 evaluations, for which an attorney at a Stockton child custody law firm can help you prepare.
What 730 Evaluations Are Used For
California Evidence Code 730 allows courts to appoint experts to investigate any matter for which an expert evaluation may be necessary and to testify as to their findings. 730 evaluations commonly arise in child custody matters, but they can also be used to investigate other issues, including:
- Allegations of mental illness
- Allegations of domestic violence
- Allegations of substance abuse
- Allegations of hidden assets
- Out-of-state relocations
- Parenting practices alleged to be harmful to the child
730 evaluations may be initiated on the motion of any party to the proceeding or by the court on its own motion.
Who Conducts 730 Evaluations
730 evaluators are licensed professionals who are educated and trained in investigating the types of matters for which the court appoints them. California law allows the following professionals to conduct such investigations:
- Board-certified psychiatrists or physicians who have completed a residency in psychiatry
- Marriage and family therapists
- Clinical social workers
- Clinical counselors qualified to assess couples and families
The court may allow a non-licensed professional to conduct the evaluation, but only under limited circumstances. The parties may not choose their own evaluator, although the court may ask each party to submit a list of potential evaluators.
The Scope of 730 Evaluations
The goal for the 730 evaluator is to assess the circumstances and determine the health, safety, welfare, and best interests of children in disputed child custody and visitation matters. For example, if there is an allegation of domestic violence, the evaluator will try to determine the veracity of those allegations. The scope of 730 evaluations will look different based on the issue at hand, but generally, the evaluator will:
- Review relevant documents related to child custody (such as police reports and medical records)
- Observe interactions between the parents and child
- Interview the parents, either individually or jointly or both
- Interview the children, parents, siblings, and other family members
- Collect corroborating information and documents
At the completion of the investigation stage of the evaluation, the evaluator will prepare a report of his or her findings and file it with the court, as well as send a copy of the report to each party.
Prepare for a 730 Evaluation With Help From an Attorney at a Stockton Child Custody Law Firm
730 evaluations can often be nerve-wracking for parents, as the evaluator’s report holds a great deal of persuasive power for the court. The best way to prepare for a 730 evaluation is to seek the assistance of experienced counsel. To get started, please contact an attorney at the Stockton child custody law firm of McKinley, Conger, Jolley & Galarneau by using our online form or calling us at 209-477-8171.