One of the most difficult decisions to be made when a couple divorces is which parent will have custody of the children. Both the mother and the father, along with their attorneys, try to convince a judge that they are the better parent. In very contentious cases, one parent may try to discredit the other by hurling accusations of child neglect, physical abuse or substance abuse against the opposing parent. The purpose is to make the opposing parent seem incapable of taking proper care of the children. To resolve these types of complicated situations, a California law permits family courts to order child custody evaluations. Under the California Evidence Code Section 730, judges can appoint a mental health professional to investigate the parents, step-parents and other relatives in regards to their relationship with the children involved in the custody dispute. The Evidence Code also calls for the court to determine compensation for the professional's services. The 730 Evaluation, as it is commonly called, can be ordered by a judge, requested by one of parents, or by "stipulation," meaning both parents and their attorneys agree to the evaluation. The judge can assign an evaluator to the case or ask the parents to supply names of qualified evaluators. The judge would then choose an evaluator from those names. The purpose of the evaluation is to help the judge, as well as the parties involved, decide what custody plan would be in the best interest of the children. When it comes to being a custody evaluator, the state law spells out the qualifications for the job. First, an evaluator has to be a licensed mental health professional, such as a psychologist or a psychiatrist. Next, the evaluator must have education and training in family relationships and child development. What is also necessary is being qualified to do psychological testing and assessment. Evaluators who are not qualified to do psychological testing and assessment can refer that part of the process to a psychologist who is qualified to do so by state standards. Professionals wanting to be involved in 730 Evaluators are also required to file a declaration with the court that they meet all the qualifications as specified by the law. After being selected for a case, the professional is required to explain to the parents the purpose of the investigation and what methods he or she will use to conduct the 730 Evaluation. The evaluation would include interviews with the parents and other adults connected with the children, as well as the children themselves. If allegations have been raised by either parent about mental competency or abuse or any other deficiency, the evaluator will examine those issues. If necessary, the evaluator will conduct psychological testing and do a psychological assessment of family members. When the study is completed, the evaluator must turn the report and his or her recommendations over to the judge and the attorneys representing the parents. After reviewing the report, either parent can challenge the findings and recommendations. The evaluator would then be required under the Evidence Code to testify in court as an expert about his or her report. If necessary, the judge can order the evaluator to conduct more interviews or psychological tests. Once both parties are satisfied with the report, the judge will use the evaluation as one of several factors in deciding child custody and visitation in the domestic case. Determining child custody is one of the most difficult decisions to be during a divorce. California law permits family courts to order child custody evaluations to determine a parent is fit or not. Consider hiring a divorce lawyer experienced in 730 Evaluations to increase your chance in getting custody of your child.