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2014 California Rules of Court

Rule 5.225. Appointment requirements for child custody evaluators

(a) Purpose

This rule provides the licensing, education and training, and experience requirements for child custody evaluators who are appointed to conduct full or partial child custody evaluations under Family Code sections 3111 and 3118, Evidence Code section 730, or chapter 15 (commencing with section 2032.010) of title 4 of part 4 of the Code of Civil Procedure. This rule is adopted as mandated by Family Code section 3110.5.

(Subd (a) amended and relettered effective January 1, 2007; adopted as subd (b).)

(b) Definitions

For purposes of this rule:

(1)A "child custody evaluator" is a court-appointed investigator as defined in Family Code section 3110.

(2)A "child custody evaluation" is an investigation and analysis of the health, safety, welfare, and best interest of a child with regard to disputed custody and visitation issues conducted under Family Code sections 3111 and 3118, Evidence Code section 730, or Code of Civil Procedure section 2032.010 et seq.

(3)A "full evaluation, investigation, or assessment" is a child custody evaluation that is a comprehensive examination of the health, safety, welfare, and best interest of the child.

(4)A "partial evaluation, investigation, or assessment" is a child custody evaluation that is limited by the court in terms of its scope.

(5)The terms "evaluation," "investigation," and "assessment" are synonymous.

(6)"Best interest of the child" is described in Family Code section 3011.

(7)A "court-connected evaluator" is a superior court employee or a person under contract with a superior court who conducts child custody evaluations.

(Subd (b) amended and relettered effective January 1, 2007; adopted as subd (c).)

(c) Licensing requirements

A person appointed as a child custody evaluator meets the licensing criteria established by Family Code section 3110.5(c)(1)-(5), if:

(1)The person is licensed as a:

(A)Physician and is either a board certified psychiatrist or has completed a residency in psychiatry;

(B)Psychologist;

(C)Marriage and family therapist; or

(D)Clinical social worker.

(2)A person may be appointed as an evaluator even if he or she does not have a license as described in (c)(1) if:

(A)The court certifies that the person is a court-connected evaluator who meets all the qualifications specified in (i); or

(B)The court finds that all the following criteria have been met:

(i)There are no licensed or certified evaluators who are willing and available, within a reasonable period of time, to perform child custody evaluations;

(ii)The parties stipulate to the person; and

(iii)The court approves the person.

(Subd (c) adopted effective January 1, 2007.)

(d) Education and training requirements

Before appointment, a child custody evaluator must complete 40 hours of education and training, which must include all the following topics:

(1)The psychological and developmental needs of children, especially as those needs relate to decisions about child custody and visitation;

(2)Family dynamics, including, but not limited to, parent-child relationships, blended families, and extended family relationships;

(3)The effects of separation, divorce, domestic violence, child sexual abuse, child physical or emotional abuse or neglect, substance abuse, and interparental conflict on the psychological and developmental needs of children and adults;

(4)The assessment of child sexual abuse issues required by Family Code section 3118; local procedures for handling child sexual abuse cases; the effect that court procedures may have on the evaluation process when there are allegations of child sexual abuse; and the areas of training required by Family Code section 3110.5(b)(2)(A)-(F), as listed below:

(A)Children's patterns of hiding and disclosing sexual abuse in a family setting;

(B)The effects of sexual abuse on children;

(C)The nature and extent of sexual abuse;

(D)The social and family dynamics of child sexual abuse;

(E)Techniques for identifying and assisting families affected by child sexual abuse; and

(F)Legal rights, protections, and remedies available to victims of child sexual abuse;

(5)The significance of culture and religion in the lives of the parties;

(6)Safety issues that may arise during the evaluation process and their potential effects on all participants in the evaluation;

(7)When and how to interview or assess adults, infants, and children; gather information from collateral sources; collect and assess relevant data; and recognize the limits of data sources' reliability and validity;

(8)The importance of addressing issues such as general mental health, medication use, and learning or physical disabilities;

(9)The importance of staying current with relevant literature and research;

(10)How to apply comparable interview, assessment, and testing procedures that meet generally accepted clinical, forensic, scientific, diagnostic, or medical standards to all parties;

(11)When to consult with or involve additional experts or other appropriate persons;

(12)How to inform each adult party of the purpose, nature, and method of the evaluation;

(13)How to assess parenting capacity and construct effective parenting plans;

(14)Ethical requirements associated with the child custody evaluator's professional license and rule 5.220;

(15)The legal context within which child custody and visitation issues are decided and additional legal and ethical standards to consider when serving as a child custody evaluator;

(16)The importance of understanding relevant distinctions among the roles of evaluator, mediator, and therapist;

(17)How to write reports and recommendations, where appropriate;

(18)Mandatory reporting requirements and limitations on confidentiality;

(19)How to prepare for and give court testimony;

(20)How to maintain professional neutrality and objectivity when conducting child custody evaluations; and

(21)The importance of assessing the health, safety, welfare, and best interest of the child or children involved in the proceedings.

(Subd (d) amended and relettered effective January 1, 2007; adopted as subd (e); previously amended effective January 1, 2005.)

(e) Additional training requirements

In addition to the requirements described in this rule, before appointment, child custody evaluators must comply with the basic and advanced domestic violence training requirements described in rule 5.230.

(Subd (e) adopted effective January 1, 2007.)

(f) Authorized education and training

The education and training described in (d) must be completed:

(1)After January 1, 2000;

(2)Through an eligible provider under this rule; and

(3)By either:

(A)Attending and participating in an approved course; or

(B)Serving as an instructor in an approved course. Each course taught may be counted only once. Instructors may claim and receive credit for only actual classroom time.

(Subd (f) adopted effective January 1, 2007.)

(g) Experience requirements

To satisfy the experience requirements of this rule, persons appointed as child custody evaluators must have participated in the completion of at least four partial or full court-appointed child custody evaluations within the preceding three years, as described below. Each of the four child custody evaluations must have resulted in a written or an oral report.

(1)The child custody evaluator participates in the completion of the child custody evaluations if the evaluator:

(A)Independently conducted and completed the child custody evaluation; or

(B)Materially assisted another child custody evaluator who meets all the following criteria:

(i)Licensing or certification requirements in (c);

(ii)Education and training requirements in (d);

(iii)Basic and advanced domestic violence training in (e);

(iv)Experience requirements in (g)(1)(A) or (g)(2); and

(v)Continuing education and training requirements in (h).

(2)The court may appoint an individual to conduct the child custody evaluation who does not meet the experience requirements described in (1), if the court finds that all the following criteria have been met:

(A)There are no evaluators who meet the experience requirements of this rule who are willing and available, within a reasonable period of time, to perform child custody evaluations;

(B)The parties stipulate to the person; and

(C)The court approves the person.

(3)Those who supervise court-connected evaluators meet the requirements of this rule by conducting or materially assisting in the completion of at least four partial or full court-connected child custody evaluations in the preceding three years.

(Subd (g) amended effective January 1, 2011; adopted as subd (f); previously amended and relettered effective January 1, 2007.)

(h) Appointment eligibility

After completing the licensing requirements in (c), the initial education and training requirements described in (d) and (e), and the experience requirements in (g), a person is eligible for appointment as a child custody evaluator.

(Subd (h) amended effective January 1, 2011; adopted as subd (g); previously amended and relettered effective January 1, 2005; previously amended effective January 1, 2007.)

(i) Continuing education and training requirements

(1)After a child custody evaluator completes the initial education and training requirements described in (d) and (e), the evaluator must complete these continuing education and training requirements to remain eligible for appointment:

(A)Domestic violence update training described in rule 5.230; and

(B)Eight hours of update training covering the subjects described in (d).

(2)The time frame for completing continuing education and training in (1) is as follows:

(A)A newly trained court-connected or private child custody evaluator who recently completed the education and training in (d) and (e) must:

(i)Complete the continuing education and training requirements of this rule within 18 months from the date he or she completed the initial education and training; and

(ii)Specify on form FL-325 or FL-326 the date by which he or she must complete the continuing education and training requirements of this rule.

(B)All other court-connected or private child custody evaluators must complete the continuing education and training requirements in (1) as follows:

(i)Court-connected child custody evaluators must complete the continuing education and training requirements within the 12-month period immediately preceding the date he or she signs the Declaration of Court-Connected Child Custody Evaluator Regarding Qualifications (form FL-325), which must be submitted as provided by (l) of this rule.

(ii)Private child custody evaluators must complete the continuing education and training requirements within the 12-month period immediately preceding his or her appointment to a case.

(3)Compliance with the continuing education and training requirements of this rule is determined at the time of appointment to a case.

(Subd (i) adopted effective January 1, 2011.)

(j) Court-connected evaluators

A court-connected evaluator who does not meet the education and training requirements in (d) may conduct child custody evaluations if, before appointment, he or she:

(1)Completed at least 20 of the 40 hours of education and training required by (d);

(2)Completes the remaining hours of education and training required by (d) within 12 months of conducting his or her first evaluation as a court-connected child custody evaluator;

(3)Complied with the basic and advanced domestic violence training requirements under Family Code sections 1816 and 3110.5 and rule 5.230;

(4)Complies with the experience requirements in (g); and

(5)Is supervised by a court-connected child custody evaluator who meets the requirements of this rule.

(Subd (j) relettered effective January 1, 2011; adopted as subd (h); previously relettered as subd (i) effective January 1, 2005; previously amended effective January 1, 2007.)

(k) Responsibility of the courts

Each court:

(1)Must develop local court rules that:

(A)Provide for acceptance of and response to complaints about an evaluator's performance; and

(B)Establish a process for informing the public about how to find qualified evaluators in that jurisdiction;

(2)Must use an Order Appointing Child Custody Evaluator (form FL-327) to appoint a private child custody evaluator or a court-connected evaluation service. Form FL-327 may be supplemented with local court forms;

(3)Must provide the Judicial Council with a copy of any local court forms used to implement this rule;

(4)As feasible and appropriate, may confer with education and training providers to develop and deliver curricula of comparable quality and relevance to child custody evaluations for both court-connected and private child custody evaluators; and

(5)Must use form Declaration of Court-Connected Child Custody Evaluator Regarding Qualifications (form FL-325) to certify that court-connected evaluators have met all the qualifications for court-connected evaluators under this rule for a given year. Form FL-325 may be supplemented with local court rules or forms.

(Subd (k) relettered effective January 1, 2011; adopted as subd (l); previously amended and relettered as subd (k) effective January 1, 2005, and as subd (j) effective January 1, 2007.)

(l) Child custody evaluator

A person appointed as a child custody evaluator must:

(1)Submit to the court a declaration indicating compliance with all applicable education, training, and experience requirements:

(A)Court-connected child custody evaluators must submit a Declaration of Court-Connected Child Custody Evaluator Regarding Qualifications (form FL-325) to the court executive officer or his or her designee. Court-connected child custody evaluators practicing as of January 1 of a given year must submit the form by January 30 of that year. Court-connected evaluators beginning practice after January 1 must submit the form before any work on the first child custody evaluation has begun and by January 30 of every year thereafter; and

(B)Private child custody evaluators must complete a Declaration of Private Child Custody Evaluator Regarding Qualifications (form FL-326) and file it with the clerk's office no later than 10 days after notification of each appointment and before any work on each child custody evaluation has begun;

(2)At the beginning of the child custody evaluation, inform each adult party of the purpose, nature, and method of the evaluation, and provide information about the evaluator's education, experience, and training;

(3)Use interview, assessment, and testing procedures that are consistent with generally accepted clinical, forensic, scientific, diagnostic, or medical standards;

(4)Have a license in good standing if licensed at the time of appointment, except as described in (c)(2) and Family Code section 3110.5(d);

(5)Be knowledgeable about relevant resources and service providers; and

(6)Before undertaking the evaluation or at the first practical moment, inform the court, counsel, and parties of possible or actual multiple roles or conflicts of interest.

(Subd (l) amended and relettered effective January 1, 2011; adopted as subd (m); previously amended and relettered as subd (l) effective January 1, 2005, and as subd (k) effective January 1, 2007.)

(m) Use of interns

Court-connected and court-appointed child custody evaluators may use interns to assist with the child custody evaluation, if:

(1)The evaluator:

(A)Before or at the time of appointment, fully discloses to the parties and attorneys the nature and extent of the intern's participation in the evaluation;

(B)Obtains the written agreement of the parties and attorneys as to the nature and extent of the intern's participation in the evaluation after disclosure;

(C)Ensures that the extent, kind, and quality of work performed by the intern being supervised is consistent with the intern's training and experience;

(D)Is physically present when the intern interacts with the parties, children, or other collateral persons in the evaluation; and

(E)Ensures compliance with all laws and regulations governing the professional practice of the supervising evaluator and the intern.

(2)The interns:

(A)Are enrolled in a master's or doctorate program or have obtained a graduate degree qualifying for licensure or certification as a clinical social worker, marriage and family therapist, psychiatrist, or psychologist;

(B)Are currently completing or have completed the coursework necessary to qualify for their degree in the subjects of child abuse assessment and spousal or partner abuse assessment; and

(C)Comply with the applicable laws related to the practice of their profession in California when interns are:

(i)Accruing supervised professional experience as defined in the California Code of Regulations; and

(ii)Providing professional services for a child custody evaluator that fall within the lawful scope of practice as a licensed professional.

(Subd (m) relettered effective January 1, 2011; adopted as subd (l) effective January 1, 2007.)

(n) Education and training providers

"Eligible providers" includes the Administrative Office of the Courts and may include educational institutions, professional associations, professional continuing education groups, public or private for-profit or not-for-profit groups, and court-connected groups. Eligible providers must:

(1)Ensure that the training instructors or consultants delivering the training and education programs either meet the requirements of this rule or are experts in the subject matter;

(2)Monitor and evaluate the quality of courses, curricula, training, instructors, and consultants;

(3)Emphasize the importance of focusing child custody evaluations on the health, safety, welfare, and best interest of the child;

(4)Develop a procedure to verify that participants complete the education and training program;

(5)Distribute a certificate of completion to each person who has completed the training. The certificate must document the number of hours of training offered, the number of hours the person completed, the dates of the training, and the name of the training provider; and

(6)Meet the approval requirements described in (o).

(Subd (n) relettered effective January 1, 2011; adopted as subd (n); previously amended and relettered as subd (m) effective January 1, 2005; previously amended effective January 1, 2007.)

(o) Program approval required

All education and training programs must be approved by the Administrative Office of the Courts. Education and training courses that were taken between January 1, 2000, and July 1, 2003, may be applied toward the requirements of this rule if they addressed the subjects listed in (d) and either were certified or approved for continuing education credit by a professional provider group or were offered as part of a related postgraduate degree or licensing program.

(Subd (o) relettered effective January 1, 2011; adopted as subd (o); previously amended and relettered as subd (n) effective January 1, 2005; previously amended effective January 1, 2007.)

Rule 5.225 amended effective January 1, 2011; adopted as rule 1257.4 effective January 1, 2002; renumbered effective January 1, 2003; previously amended effective January 1, 2005, and January 1, 2007.

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