Evidence Code Section 730
The California evidence code allows a court to appoint an expert to investigate, report, and testify about issues relevant to the divorce case. In family law, it often refers to a custody evaluation to determine the best interest of the minor child. However, it can also refer to other issues that may be presented in the action. An expert may be appointed any time a court believes that an expert could assist the court. However, it is not an automatic appointment. A party who would like to hire an expert on behalf of both parties may be able to petition the court to appoint an expert.
Custody 730 Evaluations
In a custody evaluation, a therapist investigates the family to determine what type of custody arrangement would be in the best interest of the children. In most investigations, the investigator interviews the parents and the children. In addition, the investigator may interview extended family members, teachers, instructors, etc. Sometimes the therapist may administer tests for the family.
The investigator may prepare a written, confidential report for the court of his or her evaluation. If a written report is required, then the report shall be filed with the clerk of the court and served to the parties or their attorneys. These reports are highly confidential and cannot be disclosed to third parties. Disclosure can result in sanctions against the parties.
To become a court appointed evaluator, the evaluator must complete the domestic violence and child abuse training program as well as meet the qualifications of Family Code section 3110.5. A court evaluator shall declare under penalty of perjury that he or she meets al of the education, experience, and training requirements and that he or she possesses a license in good standing. Family Code Section 3110 states that a court appointed investigator can be a probation officer, domestic relations investigator, or court appointed evaluator directed by the court to conduct an investigation.
All evaluators must use similar interview, assessment and testing procedures that are consistent with generally accepted clinical, forensic, scientific, diagnostic or medical standards. Evaluators must inform each adult party of the purpose, nature, and method of the evaluation.
Each party has the right to call the investigator into court and conduct cross-examination. No statement, either written or oral, or other conduct shall be considered a waiver by either party of the right to cross-examination unless the statement or conduct occurs after the report has been received by the party (Family Code section 3115).
FAMILY CODE SECTIONS
California Family Code Section 3110
As used in this chapter, “court-appointed investigator” means a probation officer, domestic relations investigator, or court-appointed evaluator directed by the court to conduct an investigation pursuant to this chapter.
California Family Code Section 3110.5 (Excerpts)
(a) A person may be a court-connected or private child custody evaluator under this chapter only if the person has completed the domestic violence and child abuse training program described in Section 1816 and has complied with Rules 5.220 and 5.230 of the California Rules of Court.
(b) (1) On or before January 1, 2002, the Judicial Council shall formulate a statewide rule of court that establishes education, experience, and training requirements for all child custody evaluators appointed pursuant to this chapter, Section 730 of the Evidence Code, or Chapter 15 (commencing with Section 2032.010) of Title 4 of Part 4 of the Code of Civil Procedure.
(A) The rule shall require a child custody evaluator to declare under penalty of perjury that he or she meets all of the education, experience, and training requirements specified in the rule and, if applicable, possesses a license in good standing. The Judicial Council shall establish forms to implement this section. The rule shall permit court-connected evaluators to conduct evaluations if they meet all of the qualifications established by the Judicial Council. The education, experience, and training requirements to be specified for court-connected evaluators shall include, but not be limited to, knowledge of the psychological and developmental needs of children and parent-child relationships.
California Family Code Section 3111 (Excerpts)
(d) If the court determines that an unwarranted disclosure of a written confidential report has been made, the court may impose a monetary sanction against the disclosing party. The sanction shall be in an amount sufficient to deter repetition of the conduct, and may include reasonable attorney’s fees, costs incurred, or both, unless the court finds that the disclosing party acted with substantial justification or that other circumstances make the imposition of the sanction unjust. The court shall not impose a sanction pursuant to this subdivision that imposes an unreasonable financial burden on the party against whom the sanction is imposed. This subdivision shall become operative on January 1, 2010.
California Family Code Section 3115
No statement, whether written or oral, or conduct shall be held to constitute a waiver by a party of the right to cross-examine the court-appointed investigator, unless the statement is made, or the conduct occurs, after the report has been received by a party or his or her attorney.