Judges or the parties’ will request a Child Custody Evaluation, commonly referred to as a “730 Evaluation.” This is intended to assist the court in establishment of custody orders and in move-away cases. It “looks” into the mental health and parenting practices of one or both of the parents.
When is an evaluation needed? If there are issues of child abuse, substance abuse, mental health professionals, one parent wishes to move out of state and the other parent objects. Other scenarios would be when thee are questionable parenting practices that could have a negative impact on a child, question about a child’s upbringing or the parents are unable to agree on the custodial arrangement.
The evaluations must be conducted by any of the following: qualified mental health professionals such as psychiatrist, psychologist and social worker. A psychological test can reveal personality and family dynamics and also parenting and potential mental health issues. The evaluator will not make custody recommendations. However, a report will be provided to the court as to a recommendation based on their testing results.
Who chooses the evaluator? The judge can requests for the parties’ to submit a list of evaluators and will make a final decision or the parties’ themselves can agree to an evaluator. The costs of the evaluator can be very expensive and this is something that may be agreed to or the judge will decide whether the fees/costs shall be incurred by both, paid by one party up front subject to reimbursement, or pay for all fees/costs with no reimbursement.
Before a hearing, the evaluator will release a report to all parties involved and the court. If both parties accept the report, it will be submitted into evidence. If there are disagreements, then either party may rebut the findings. The judge will review the evaluation but is not obliged to follow the recommendations of the evaluator.
The pervading question from a client is whether the evaluator will speak to the child? Depending on the child’s age and maturity, the evaluator may consider observing and talking with your child. The evaluator will follow the court order by investigating and making recommendations that address the issues raised in your case. Areas of concern would be for legal and physical custody, parenting plan or visitation, supervised visitation, safety issues, child custody modification or counseling.
In high conflict cases where both sides are entrenched and have opposing views on what is the best interest of a child, appointing an expert witness is necessary. It can be quite expensive and so being pro-active in resolving parental issues is highly recommended. But there are times when it can lead to a lessening of conflict and it may be inevitable in move away situations or abusive home environments.
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