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What is a 730 custody evaluation and what should you do next?

A 730 child custody evaluation is ordered whenever there's a need to look into someone's mental health and parenting practices during a custody battle.

It can be ordered independently by the family court judge or it can be requested by one of the parties involved in the case. While they can be broadly aimed, a 360 evaluation often focuses on specific issues— you can generally expect that your mental health and your fitness as a parent is being brought into question.

For many parents, this is a nightmare that results from doing the right thing in the first place. For example, if you seek help for depression—which could be entirely understandable when going through a custody battle—you can end up facing a 730 evaluation because your child's other parent or some other relative, like a grandparent who wants custody, seized on that information and used it to allege that you're too mentally unstable to be raising your child.

Could seeking help for a mental illness really cost you the custody of your children? Aren't you supposed to try to deal with mental health issues in order to be a better parent?

The short answer to both questions is, unfortunately, "Yes." If you let a mental health issue go untreated and it affects your parenting skills, you could lose custody based on poor parenting. If you get treatment for your problems, that usually means a formal diagnosis, which can then be used against you in court to allege that you're too mentally ill to be given custody in the first place.

What's the best way to handle a 730 evaluation?

First, remain clam. As difficult as it may be, a calm reaction helps your case. An angry, exasperated or indignant reaction, no matter how justified, just helps your opposition.

Second, consult with both your mental health expert and your attorney. Do not discuss the evaluation, your therapy, your mental illness, or any changes in your diagnosis with anyone unless your attorney tells you it's okay. You don't want information leaking back to the other party in the case—the less that he or she knows, the better.

Third, be cooperative with the evaluation process. Recognize that it's going to take some time and be intrusive, but keep in mind that it is only one factor among many that the judge will use to make his or her decision.

Source: www.courts.ca.gov, "2017 California Rules of Court Rule 5.220 Court-ordered child custody evaluations," accessed Feb. 17, 2017

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