Child Custody Evaluation Reports: Family Code section 3111
An extremely important provision, Family Code section 3111 empowers courts
to appoint a person to conduct a limited or general child custody evaluation
which is then reported back to the court, and to the parties. It is to
be distinguished from an
Evidence Code section 730 evaluation. Often 3111 evaluations are done by county employees, but that is less
frequent today given budget concerns.
CALIFORNIA FAMILY CODE
RIGHT TO CUSTODY OF MINOR CHILD
Family Code Section 3111
(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 following:
(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.