How to Request a Psychological Evaluation in Your Child Custody Case
A child custody case can be emotionally challenging. Both parents may believe they have the best interest of their child at heart. In some divorce cases, a parent may use custody as a bargaining or punishment tactic.
Whatever the reason might be for a custody dispute, the court has one goal. The court seeks to settle the custody dispute in the best interest of the child.
A judge considers all factors relevant to the case to determine a custody arrangement that benefits the child. The judge seeks to protect the child, even if that means protecting the child from his or her parents.
What is a Custody Evaluator?
The California legislature enacted laws that allow a family court judge to appoint custody evaluators. The judge may appoint the custody evaluator based on its own motion or a request by either parent.
A custody evaluator acts as the eyes and ears of the judge. A judge cannot visit a child’s home, interview parents, talk to a child’s teacher, and review countless medical records in each case. Therefore, the courts use custody evaluators to do that for them.
The evaluator is an impartial party in the case. The person investigates matters related to custody for the court.
The evaluator observes the child and the parents at home. He interviews and listens to the opinions and views of a variety of people involved in the child’s life.
Through the investigation, a custody evaluator can gain far more information than a judge can obtain in a courtroom setting. After the investigation, the custody evaluator prepares a report for the court with the evaluator’s findings and suggestions regarding custody.
What is a Psychological Evaluation in a Child Custody Case?
Many parents believe that a psychological evaluation or 730 Evaluation focuses solely on their child. They believe that a professional evaluates their child’s emotional and psychological health. However, a 730 Evaluation is not limited to the child.
A custody evaluator also observes the parents. The evaluator observes parenting practices, parenting beliefs, relationships between the parents and the child, work-life balance, personal relationships, and personal lifestyles of both parents. Details of those observations are included in the evaluator’s report.
The evaluator also reviews numerous documents related to the child. Documents that may be reviewed as part of a psychological evaluation include medical records, school records, and police records. The evaluator may also meet with and interview numerous people in the child’s life, such as teachers, ministers, coaches, doctors, and others.
During a psychological evaluation, the evaluator uses numerous tools and resources to complete the 730 Examination. The evaluator may require parents to complete surveys or questionnaires. The evaluator may conduct a question and answer interviews with the entire family and with each individual family member.
Throughout the process, the court and the custody evaluator’s goal is to gain information while protecting the child. During a psychological evaluation, the evaluator seeks to minimize any trauma that the child might experience because of the 730 Examination. For that reason, age-appropriate tools are used when interviewing the child.
A psychological evaluation may be requested during a custody dispute, request for modification of custody orders, petitions for relocations, and other child custody matters.
Preparing for Your Psychological Evaluation
Many parents request a 730 Examination without fully understanding the consequences and what is involved in a psychological evaluation. It helps to work with an experienced child custody lawyer. Your lawyer can help you prepare for the psychological evaluation by offering tips and suggestions as well as legal advice about your rights during the 730 Examination.
It is important to remember that the custody evaluator is not your therapist or sounding board. Do not vent your frustrations about your child’s other parent to the evaluator. Keep all communications with the custody evaluator professional and relevant to the case.
Some tips to keep in mind about a psychological evaluation include:
- Treat the custody evaluator respectfully.
- Do not talk negatively about your spouse with the evaluator.
- Present legitimate concerns about your child’s other parent without anger or malice.
- Keep a log of all visitations and activities with your child to show your involvement in your child’s life.
- Try to maintain a positive attitude and avoid acting defensively.
- Provide all documentation and information promptly.
- Dress appropriately at all times and be on time for all appointments.
- Give the custody evaluator a list of witnesses who can provide additional information to support your allegations.
Your attorney may give you additional instructions for the psychological evaluation. If you have questions or concerns during the 730 Examination, call your lawyer immediately. It is best to allow your lawyer to handle any problems or concerns that might arise during the psychological evaluation.