Chapter 6. Custody Investigation And Report of California Family Law Code >> Division 8. >> Part 2. >> Chapter 6.
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.
(a) No person may be a court-connected or private child
custody evaluator under this chapter unless 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.
(B) The rule shall require all evaluators to utilize comparable
interview, assessment, and testing procedures for all parties that
are consistent with generally accepted clinical, forensic,
scientific, diagnostic, or medical standards. The rule shall also
require evaluators to inform each adult party of the purpose, nature,
and method of the evaluation.
(C) The rule may allow courts to permit the parties to stipulate
to an evaluator of their choosing with the approval of the court
under the circumstances set forth in subdivision (d). The rule may
require courts to provide general information about how parties can
contact qualified child custody evaluators in their county.
(2) On or before January 1, 2004, the Judicial Council shall
include in the statewide rule of court created pursuant to this
section a requirement that all court-connected and private child
custody evaluators receive training in the nature of child sexual
abuse. The Judicial Council shall develop standards for this training
that shall include, but not be limited to, the following:
(A) Children's patterns of hiding and disclosing sexual abuse
occurring in a family setting.
(B) The effects of sexual abuse on children.
(C) The nature and extent of child sexual abuse.
(D) The social and family dynamics of child sexual abuse.
(E) Techniques for identifying and assisting families affected by
child sexual abuse.
(F) Legal rights, protections, and remedies available to victims
of child sexual abuse.
(c) In addition to the education, experience, and training
requirements established by the Judicial Council pursuant to
subdivision (b), on or after January 1, 2005, no person may be a
child custody evaluator under 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 unless the person
meets one of the following criteria:
(1) He or she is licensed as a physician under Chapter 5
(commencing with Section 2000) of Division 2 of the Business and
Professions Code and either is a board certified psychiatrist or has
completed a residency in psychiatry.
(2) He or she is licensed as a psychologist under Chapter 6.6
(commencing with Section 2900) of Division 2 of the Business and
(3) He or she is licensed as a marriage and family therapist under
Chapter 13 (commencing with Section 4980) of Division 2 of the
Business and Professions Code.
(4) He or she is licensed as a clinical social worker under
Article 4 (commencing with Section 4996) of Chapter 14 of Division 2
of the Business and Professions Code.
(5) He or she is a court-connected evaluator who has been
certified by the court as meeting all of the qualifications for
court-connected evaluators as specified by the Judicial Council
pursuant to subdivision (b).
(d) Subdivision (c) does not apply in any case where the court
determines that there are no evaluators who meet the criteria of
subdivision (c) who are willing and available, within a reasonable
period of time, to perform child custody evaluations. In those cases,
the parties may stipulate to an individual who does not meet the
criteria of subdivision (c), subject to approval by the court.
(e) A child custody evaluator who is licensed by the Medical Board
of California, the Board of Psychology, or the Board of Behavioral
Sciences shall be subject to disciplinary action by that board for
unprofessional conduct, as defined in the licensing law applicable to
(f) On or after January 1, 2005, a court-connected or private
child custody evaluator may not evaluate, investigate, or mediate an
issue of child custody in a proceeding pursuant to this division
unless that person has completed child sexual abuse training as
required by this section.
(a) In any contested proceeding involving child custody or
visitation rights, the court may appoint a child custody evaluator to
conduct a child custody evaluation in cases where the court
determines it is in the best interests of the child. The child
custody evaluation shall be conducted in accordance with the
standards adopted by the Judicial Council pursuant to Section 3117,
and all other standards adopted by the Judicial Council regarding
child custody evaluations. If directed by the court, the
court-appointed child custody evaluator shall file a written
confidential report on his or her evaluation. At least 10 days before
any hearing regarding custody of the child, the report shall be
filed with the clerk of the court in which the custody hearing will
be conducted and served on the parties or their attorneys, and any
other counsel appointed for the child pursuant to Section 3150. A
child custody evaluation, investigation, or assessment, and any
resulting report, may be considered by the court only if it is
conducted in accordance with the requirements set forth in the
standards adopted by the Judicial Council pursuant to Section 3117;
however, this does not preclude the consideration of a child custody
evaluation report that contains nonsubstantive or inconsequential
errors or both.
(b) The report shall not be made available other than as provided
in subdivision (a) or Section 3025.5, or as described in Section 204
of the Welfare and Institutions Code or Section 1514.5 of the Probate
Code. Any information obtained from access to a juvenile court case
file, as defined in subdivision (e) of Section 827 of the Welfare and
Institutions Code, is confidential and shall only be disseminated as
provided by paragraph (4) of subdivision (a) of Section 827 of the
Welfare and Institutions Code.
(c) The report may be received in evidence on stipulation of all
interested parties and is competent evidence as to all matters
contained in the report.
(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.
(e) The Judicial Council shall, by January 1, 2010, do the
(1) Adopt a form to be served with every child custody evaluation
report that informs the report recipient of the confidentiality of
the report and the potential consequences for the unwarranted
disclosure of the report.
(2) Adopt a rule of court to require that, when a court-ordered
child custody evaluation report is served on the parties, the form
specified in paragraph (1) shall be included with the report.
(f) For purposes of this section, a disclosure is unwarranted if
it is done either recklessly or maliciously, and is not in the best
interests of the child.
(a) Where a court-appointed investigator is directed by the
court to conduct a custody investigation or evaluation pursuant to
this chapter or to undertake visitation work, including necessary
evaluation, supervision, and reporting, the court shall inquire into
the financial condition of the parent, guardian, or other person
charged with the support of the minor. If the court finds the parent,
guardian, or other person able to pay all or part of the expense of
the investigation, report, and recommendation, the court may make an
order requiring the parent, guardian, or other person to repay the
court the amount the court determines proper.
(b) The repayment shall be made to the court. The court shall keep
suitable accounts of the expenses and repayments and shall deposit
the collections as directed by the Judicial Council.
Where there has been a history of domestic violence between
the parties, or where a protective order as defined in Section 6218
is in effect, at the request of the party alleging domestic violence
in a written declaration under penalty of perjury or at the request
of a party who is protected by the order, the parties shall meet with
the court-appointed investigator separately and at separate times.
Nothing in this chapter prohibits a court-appointed
investigator from recommending to the court that counsel be appointed
pursuant to Chapter 10 (commencing with Section 3150) to represent
the minor child. In making that recommendation, the court-appointed
investigator shall inform the court of the reasons why it would be in
the best interest of the child to have counsel appointed.
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.
Nothing in this chapter limits the duty of a court-appointed
investigator to assist the appointing court in the transaction of the
business of the court.
The Judicial Council shall, by January 1, 1999, do both of
(a) Adopt standards for full and partial court-connected
evaluations, investigations, and assessments related to child
(b) Adopt procedural guidelines for the expeditious and
cost-effective cross-examination of court-appointed investigators,
including, but not limited to, the use of electronic technology
whereby the court-appointed investigator may not need to be present
in the courtroom. These guidelines shall in no way limit the
requirement that the court-appointed investigator be available for
the purposes of cross-examination. These guidelines shall also
provide for written notification to the parties of the right to
cross-examine these investigators after the parties have had a
reasonable time to review the investigator's report.
(a) In any contested proceeding involving child custody or
visitation rights, where the court has appointed a child custody
evaluator or has referred a case for a full or partial
court-connected evaluation, investigation, or assessment, and the
court determines that there is a serious allegation of child sexual
abuse, the court shall require an evaluation, investigation, or
assessment pursuant to this section. When the court has determined
that there is a serious allegation of child sexual abuse, any child
custody evaluation, investigation, or assessment conducted subsequent
to that determination shall be considered by the court only if the
evaluation, investigation, or assessment is conducted in accordance
with the minimum requirements set forth in this section in
determining custody or visitation rights, except as specified in
paragraph (1). For purposes of this section, a serious allegation of
child sexual abuse means an allegation of child sexual abuse, as
defined in Section 11165.1 of the Penal Code, that is based in whole
or in part on statements made by the child to law enforcement, a
child welfare services agency investigator, any person required by
statute to report suspected child abuse, or any other court-appointed
personnel, or that is supported by substantial independent
corroboration as provided for in subdivision (b) of Section 3011.
When an allegation of child abuse arises in any other circumstances
in any proceeding involving child custody or visitation rights, the
court may require an evaluator or investigator to conduct an
evaluation, investigation, or assessment pursuant to this section.
The order appointing a child custody evaluator or investigator
pursuant to this section shall provide that the evaluator or
investigator have access to all juvenile court records pertaining to
the child who is the subject of the evaluation, investigation, or
assessment. The order shall also provide that any juvenile court
records or information gained from those records remain confidential
and shall only be released as specified in Section 3111.
(1) This section does not apply to any emergency court-ordered
partial investigation that is conducted for the purpose of assisting
the court in determining what immediate temporary orders may be
necessary to protect and meet the immediate needs of a child. This
section does apply when the emergency is resolved and the court is
considering permanent child custody or visitation orders.
(2) This section does not prohibit a court from considering
evidence relevant to determining the safety and protection needs of
(3) Any evaluation, investigation, or assessment conducted
pursuant to this section shall be conducted by an evaluator or
investigator who meets the qualifications set forth in Section
(b) The evaluator or investigator shall, at a minimum, do all of
(1) Consult with the agency providing child welfare services and
law enforcement regarding the allegations of child sexual abuse, and
obtain recommendations from these professionals regarding the child's
safety and the child's need for protection.
(2) Review and summarize the child welfare services agency file.
No document contained in the child welfare services agency file may
be photocopied, but a summary of the information in the file,
including statements made by the children and the parents, and the
recommendations made or anticipated to be made by the child welfare
services agency to the juvenile court, may be recorded by the
evaluator or investigator, except for the identity of the reporting
party. The evaluator's or investigator's notes summarizing the child
welfare services agency information shall be stored in a file
separate from the evaluator's or investigator's file and may only be
released to either party under order of the court.
(3) Obtain from a law enforcement investigator all available
information obtained from criminal background checks of the parents
and any suspected perpetrator that is not a parent, including
information regarding child abuse, domestic violence, or substance
(4) Review the results of a multidisciplinary child interview team
(hereafter MDIT) interview if available, or if not, or if the
evaluator or investigator believes the MDIT interview is inadequate
for purposes of the evaluation, investigation, or assessment,
interview the child or request an MDIT interview, and shall wherever
possible avoid repeated interviews of the child.
(5) Request a forensic medical examination of the child from the
appropriate agency, or include in the report required by paragraph
(6) a written statement explaining why the examination is not needed.
(6) File a confidential written report with the clerk of the court
in which the custody hearing will be conducted and which shall be
served on the parties or their attorneys at least 10 days prior to
the hearing. This report may not be made available other than as
provided in this subdivision. This report shall include, but is not
limited to, the following:
(A) Documentation of material interviews, including any MDIT
interview of the child or the evaluator or investigator, written
documentation of interviews with both parents by the evaluator or
investigator, and interviews with other witnesses who provided
(B) A summary of any law enforcement investigator's investigation,
including information obtained from the criminal background check of
the parents and any suspected perpetrator that is not a parent,
including information regarding child abuse, domestic violence, or
(C) Relevant background material, including, but not limited to, a
summary of a written report from any therapist treating the child
for suspected child sexual abuse, excluding any communication subject
to Section 1014 of the Evidence Code, reports from other
professionals, and the results of any forensic medical examination
and any other medical examination or treatment that could help
establish or disprove whether the child has been the victim of sexual
(D) The written recommendations of the evaluator or investigator
regarding the therapeutic needs of the child and how to ensure the
safety of the child.
(E) A summary of the following information: whether the child and
his or her parents are or have been the subject of a child abuse
investigation and the disposition of that investigation; the name,
location, and telephone number of the children's services worker; the
status of the investigation and the recommendations made or
anticipated to be made regarding the child's safety; and any
dependency court orders or findings that might have a bearing on the
(F) Any information regarding the presence of domestic violence or
substance abuse in the family that has been obtained from a child
protective agency in accordance with paragraphs (1) and (2), a law
enforcement agency, medical personnel or records, prior or currently
treating therapists, excluding any communication subject to Section
1014 of the Evidence Code, or from interviews conducted or reviewed
for this evaluation, investigation, or assessment.
(G) Which, if any, family members are known to have been deemed
eligible for assistance from the Victims of Crime Program due to
child abuse or domestic violence.
(H) Any other information the evaluator or investigator believes
would be helpful to the court in determining what is in the best
interests of the child.
(c) If the evaluator or investigator obtains information as part
of a family court mediation, that information shall be maintained in
the family court file, which is not subject to subpoena by either
party. If, however, the members of the family are the subject of an
ongoing child welfare services investigation, or the evaluator or
investigator has made a child welfare services referral, the
evaluator or investigator shall so inform the family law judicial
officer in writing and this information shall become part of the
family law file. This subdivision may not be construed to authorize
or require a mediator to disclose any information not otherwise
authorized or required by law to be disclosed.
(d) In accordance with subdivision (d) of Section 11167 of the
Penal Code, the evaluator or investigator may not disclose any
information regarding the identity of any person making a report of
suspected child abuse. Nothing in this section is intended to limit
any disclosure of information by any agency that is otherwise
required by law or court order.
(e) The evaluation, investigation, or assessment standards set
forth in this section represent minimum requirements of evaluation
and the court shall order further evaluation beyond these minimum
requirements when necessary to determine the safety needs of the
(f) If the court orders an evaluation, investigation, or
assessment pursuant to this section, the court shall consider whether
the best interests of the child require that a temporary order be
issued that limits visitation with the parent against whom the
allegations have been made to situations in which a third person
specified by the court is present or whether visitation will be
suspended or denied in accordance with Section 3011.
(g) An evaluation, investigation, or assessment pursuant to this
section shall be suspended if a petition is filed to declare the
child a dependent child of the juvenile court pursuant to Section 300
of the Welfare and Institutions Code, and all information gathered
by the evaluator or investigator shall be made available to the
(h) This section may not be construed to authorize a court to
issue any orders in a proceeding pursuant to this division regarding
custody or visitation with respect to a minor child who is the
subject of a dependency hearing in juvenile court or to otherwise
supersede Section 302 of the Welfare and Institutions Code.