What Is a 730 Evaluation?
There can be times when a child custody evaluation will be ordered, particularly when parents are unable to come to an agreement regarding child custody and visitation. They are normally requested by an attorney or perhaps a therapist and at times, simply ordered by a Judge.
So what can you expect from a 730 evaluation and what is the process?
The 730 Evaluation will investigate the mental health, parenting styles, practices and relationships of one or both of the parents with their child and is always conducted what what is in the "best interest of the child". The process can be a lengthy one, taking anything up to three months to complete and with that, it can be costly. What you can expect is for child custody and visitation orders to be offered based upon what the 730 evaluation reports comes up with and will be always what is right for the child, which is paramount. At times, the evaluator may be called in to court to testify about their findings and to explain the recommendations that have been put forward.
The phrase "in the best interest" means that the evaluator must come to a decision that ensures your child will be raised in a healthy and happy environment, making sure that their emotional needs, their social, physical and academic needs are considered and will be met. They will interview all family members, perhaps teachers, friends, people who have regular contact with the child in order to get a good picture of how the child is currently being raised. The child must be provided with an environment that will allow them to develop in a healthy and happy adult and with that, must not be impacted from any negativity the arises from divorce and child custody battles.
So who will the Evaluator be and how are they selected?
The evaluation must be conducted by someone who is qualified in areas such as Psychiatry, Psychology, Social Worker or as a Marriage and Family Therapist. Any required psychological testing must be completed by a trained psychologist. A psychological test potentially reveals personality and family dynamics that exists and it will also highlight any potential mental healthy issues or problems that could arise with the parenting regime and style that is used.
Here is a list of the court appointed 730 Evaluators as approved by Orange County Court. Be sure to select from this list for someone who is not only qualified but experienced and approved.
It is worth knowing that the psychological tester will not make recommendations regarding custody. The results from the test will form a recommendation and those results will what become a formal report which is then submitted to the court.
As for selection of the evaluator, either the Judge will choose the evaluator or one can be selected and agreed by the parties, quite often with referrals from the attorney's. This will be based upon previous experiences with evaluators. If you and your spouse cannot agree on the right evaluator, one will be selected for you by the Judge. Please bear in mind - the evaluator is impartial and will not be swayed by you or your spouse so it is worth remembering that you do not choose an evaluator who you "think" will be on your side. Remember - they will make recommendations based on what is right for the child.
The Evaluation Report
We mentioned that the 730 evaluation will in most cases, involve psychological testing.
One test commonly used is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory and consists of 500 questions with the answers being either "True or False" and will result in a report profiling your personality. Another test is the Multiaxial Inventory-III and can be used to detect personality disorders.
Testing is just a part of the overall evaluation and if you are feeling overwhelmed and anxious about the testing phase, that is natural. It is important to answer all the questions with honesty and truthfulness. This will provide the tester with an accurate opinion of you. There are interviews and home visits and all play a vital role in a custody evaluation. You will be required to give access to teachers, medical records for example otherwise the Judge will order access to such information.
If there is a request to conduct a home visit and investigation, the evaluator will visit both homes of the parents and is a great natural environment for them to witness the child in the natural surroundings and how they behave at home. The evaluator may well investigate further, things such as home safety and accident prevention, how the home is kept and will look at where the child sleeps and plays. Don't be surprised if the evaluator is there to witness a meal time, bath time and bed times.
Review of the Report
You are entitled to review the results and report. The evaluator will explain the report to you and you can discuss the report and elements of it, particularly if there are parts of it with which you disagree. The evaluator will look a plethora of aspects of your parenting style, the bond and attachment you have with your child and more to the point, the child has with you. If you have been an absent parent, they will look at how reunification can occur and what steps need to be taken in order for that to take place effectively and without impacting the child in a negative fashion. It is important to understand that if you have been an absent parent, this isn't about you pushing forward with your own time scale and rushing in feet first. Remember - the 730 Evaluation is all about the "best interests of the child".
We hope this has provided you with a good summary of what you can expect from a 730 evaluation. There is no need to worry. Please contact us if you would like further information or if you would like us to recommend an appropriate 730 Evaluator. Toll free 949-338-3787