Evidence Code 730 Evaluations

A 730 evaluation is an in-depth analysis of a disputed and complex legal issue which is conducted by an unbiased expert in the field related to the legal dispute.

Note: The term “730 evaluation” is a reference to evidence code section 730. Evidence code section 730 provides the legal authority for courts to appoint experts to assist judges in analyzing complex issues.

The Law: When it appears to the court, at any time before or during the trial of an action, that expert evidence is, or may be required by the court, or by any party to the action, the court on its own motion, or on motion of any party, may appoint one or more experts to investigate, to render a report as may be ordered by the court, and to testify as an expert at the trial of the action relative to the fact or matter as to which the expert evidence is, or may be required.

 

The court may fix the compensation for these services, if any, rendered by any person appointed under this section, in addition to any service as a witness, at the amount as seems reasonable to the court. [Evidence Code Section 730].

For example, if a husband and wife disagree as to the overall value of a community property business that is to be divided at the time of their divorce, a 730 evaluation may be ordered by the court to help the court determine the actual value of the business.

 

The 730 evaluator in this situation would an expert in determining the value of a business (i.e. calculating accounts receivable, goodwill value, debts and assets, market projections, value in light of the loss of owners, cost to operate, and more).

After the 730 evaluation is complete, the expert, or 730 evaluator, will render his or her opinion on the disputed legal issue to the judge in a written recommendation. The recommendation may be used to assist the judge in making proper findings and orders related to that legal dispute.

Another example: In a child custody dispute, a psychologist (730 evaluator) may be appointed to analyze a person’s mental status as it relates to that person’s ability to take care of his or her child. The psychologist will prepare a recommendation for the presiding judge so that the judge may better understand the person's mental status as it relates to his or her ability to take legal custody and/or physical custody of his or her child.

Note: The court is not required to adopt the recommendations of the 730 evaluator, but in child custody cases, the court is required to make orders that are in the best interest of the child.

How Court Chooses an Expert

The court usually appoints a 730 evaluator from a court-approved list of 730 evaluators; however, if the parties can agree (stipulate), the court may allow a person, who otherwise qualifies as an expert in the field related to the legal issue, to serve as the 730 evaluator. This is true even though the stipulated expert is not on the court's court-approved list.

Note: Evidence code section 730 does not allow a judge to appoint a person as an expert who is not otherwise allowed to make expert opinions without state license approval.

For example, the judge may appoint a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in a divorce case where the parties dispute their respective community property interest in accounts receivable from a community property business. The judge may appoint the CPA from a pre-approved list of CPAs, or the parties may select a CPA that is not on the court’s list, so long as both parties agree (stipulate) to use the non-court-listed CPA and so long as the court does not otherwise object. However, the judge may not appoint an unlicensed accountant to serve as the 730 evaluator in this situation. This is because an unlicensed accountant may not render an opinion as to the value of business assets regardless of the court’s permission.

Note: The 730 evaluator (expert) must be licensed in his or her field of expertise, such as a licensed physician, CPA, psychologist, psychiatrist, marriage counselor, social worker, etc. This is true if the expert must be licensed in his or her field of expertise or profession. However, some persons may be appointed to serve as a 730 evaluator even though they do not possess a license in any particular field.

730 Evaluation in Family Court

Use of a 730 evaluation is not limited to family law court. However, 730 evaluations are more commonly used in family law court, probate court (guardianship & conservatorship cases) and juvenile dependency court, than they are used in any other field of law.

 

In family law cases, 730 evaluations are common in complex child custody disputes or spousal support type cases. This includes any of the following type of legal cases: child custody, child visitation (parenting time), spousal supports (alimony), child support, paternity suits, grandparents’ rights, guardianships, conservatorships, and restraining orders (DVRO).

Child Custody Case: In child custody cases, the court may appoint a 730 evaluator to analyze questionable parenting practices, dangerous living environments, drug or alcohol abuse, physical or emotional child abuse, child neglect, child move away requests, the impact of a long absence between a child and a parent, or other concerns of the court, so as to assist the court in making child custody orders that are in the child's best interest.

In support cases (child, spousal, or family support), the court may appoint a 730 evaluator to analyze a party’s assets and/or actual income as it relates to a person’s ability to pay child and/or spousal support (alimony). The 730 evaluator in support cases will investigate and assess a party’s self-employed business value, personal value, cash on hand and cash flow, community property interests (tracing issues), hidden assets, supplemental income (i.e. tips from service industry employment, gifts, bonus structure and present value, etc.), debts, goodwill value of a business and its assets, market conditions as it affects present and future income, and more.

Evaluation Scope in Child Custody Cases

In child custody and/or child visitation cases the 730 evaluator may analyze the following: a child’s relationship with his or her parents, siblings, friends, babysitter, teachers, or other family members, the child’s social structure and living arrangements (i.e. religion, culture, activities, discipline, etc.), legal documents (police reports, medical reports, school records, prior psychological evaluations, restraining orders, and/or mediation reports), and the particular needs of the child in light of his or her age, education, and maturity, and more.

Note: The 730 evaluator in a child custody case is usually a psychologist or licensed therapist. Psychologist and licensed therapist are mandated reporters of suspected child abuse and/or child neglect. This means that a psychologist or licensed therapist who serves as a 730 evaluator, and suspects child abuse or child neglect has occurred, must report that suspicion to both the court and law enforcement.

 

Also, the 730 evaluator is not a mediator for the parents in child custody disputes. The 730 evaluator’s job is to analyze the family dynamics and social environment in order to make a recommendation for child custody and/or child visitation arrangements that best meet the interest of the child.

Confidential Report: The 730 evaluator will maintain confidentiality as best as possible under the circumstances and he or she will not discuss findings or recommendations with the parties before the recommendation is filed with the court. However, once the recommendation is made available to the court, the court usually makes that recommendation available to the parties or their respective attorneys so that those person may argue for or against the recommendation.

Who Pays the Expert?

The court order may order a party to pay either the entire cost, or a portion of the cost, of the 730 evaluation. Sometimes, the court will order that a party pay the entire cost of a 730 evaluation, subject to full or partial reimbursement at a later time by the opposing party. The ability to pay the cost of the 730 evaluation and other equitable factors are important in the judge’s decision as to which party should incur those cost.

Challenging the Recommendation

A 730 evaluator’s recommendation may be challenged for several reasons, including: 1) bias or prejudice of the 730 evaluator, 2) failure of the 730 evaluator to consider relevant evidence, 3) consideration of improper or illegal evidence in the 730 evaluation, 4) the 730 evaluator misapplied the law to the facts, 5) the scope of the evaluation was overly broad, and more.

Also, a person may hire a second 730 evaluator in hopes of producing a different recommendation based on the same facts, or to challenge the propriety of the first 730 evaluator’s findings based on the above listed factors, or both.

For more information on 730 evaluations, contact our divorce and family law attorneys today for a free consultation. Our family law firm has successfully handled hundreds of cases in the Inland Empire, including hundreds of cases involving child custody, support, guardianship, domestic violence restraining orders (DVRO), annulment, stepparent adoption, fathers’ rights, juvenile dependency (CPS defense), and more. Call today!

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