Frequently Asked Questions in Family Law
1. How Does Filing for a Divorce Work?
Ending a marriage is often a difficult and emotional choice. Some feel that they do not have a choice but to file for a divorce because of infidelity, domestic violence or other factors. Others find that they have grown apart and can no longer relate to their spouse regardless of the efforts made to rekindle the relationship. California is a “no fault” state. Therefore, a “cause” or a “guilty” party is not necessary to obtain a divorce. The most common reason cited in divorce documents for termination of a marriage is “irreconcilable differences”.
In addition to terminating your marital status, in a divorce proceeding, you can also request that the court make orders about custody and visitation, child support, spousal support, division of property and debts. You can request attorney fees if either party or both parties have lawyers. In cases involving domestic violence or other abuse, you can also request that the judge make orders to address those issues.
Regardless of the cause for the breakup of the marriage, we want to help you understand the process you may be facing.
2. Where Do I Start?
A divorce action, also called “dissolution of marriage” ends your marriage, and when the judgment is entered, you are returned to the status of a “single” person. In order to start the divorce process you must file a Petition for the dissolution of marriage with the Superior Court for the county in which you have lived in for at least 3 months. The Petition is a Judicial Council form used by all courts in California for divorce actions. The form requests information about the marriage, any children of the marriage, and where you have lived for the past 3 and 6 months immediately before filing the divorce. A third party must personally serve the Petition and Summons on the Respondent. You cannot serve it. After the service is complete, the person serving your spouse must fill out a Proof of Service, indicating the date and time they served your spouse (the Respondent in the case) and you must file the Proof of Service with the Clerk of the Court.
The earliest date your marital status can be terminated is 6 months and 1 day from the day the other party was served with the Petition and Summons. Not from the date that the Petition is filed with the court.
3. Do I Have to be a California Resident to Get a California Divorce?
In order to obtain a California divorce, you must meet the state’s residency requirements. The state must have jurisdiction or “power” over the parties in order to grant a divorce. Either spouse may establish this requirement by showing that one or both of you have lived in California for the last six (6) months immediately prior to the filing of the Petition and in the County where you plan to file the divorce (i.e. Orange County, Riverside County) for the last three (3) month immediately before filing the Petition.
4. What Are My Options if I Don’t Meet the Residency Requirements?
If neither you nor your spouse meets the residency requirement, filing for legal separation is one way to begin the process if you do not meet the residency requirements. Once the required time has passed (six (6) months in California immediately prior to filing of the Petition and three (3) months in the County where you plan to file (i.e. Orange County, Riverside County) you can file an “amended” petition and change your request from a legal separation to a divorce.
5. What is a “Summary Dissolution”?
A “summary dissolution” is a streamlined process for couples that have been married or in a registered domestic partnership for less than 5 years. The last date to file a summary dissolution is on or before your 5th anniversary. Other requirements include:
- No children together (or adopted) and the wife is not pregnant when the dissolution is filed;
- The parties do not own any real estate, even if it was owned before you got married;
- Do not rent any land or buildings (except for where you now live, and you do not have a 1-year lease or an option to buy);
- Do not owe more than $6,000 for debts acquired since the date you got married (called “community obligations/debts”). This does not include car loans;
- No more than $40,000 worth of property acquired during the marriage (called “community property“). This does not include your cars.
- Do not haveseparate property worth more than $40,000. This does not include your cars.
- The parties agree that neither spouse will ever get spousal support (spousal support waiver) ; AND
- The parties sign a joint the divorce agreement that divides all property (including your cars) and debts.
- Exchange an income and expense declaration and disclosure documents listing all debts and property.
Once the parties have exchanged the disclosures and the necessary paperwork with the court, you must wait six months. If neither of you has changed your mind about the agreement, you then have to file a request for judgment and a judgment for dissolution of marriage with the court. A judge will then grant your divorce. There is a filing fee for the process, $435 as of 2014.
6. I Have Been Served With a Petition for Divorce and a Summons, What Now?
If you have been served with a divorce Petition and Summons, you have 30 days from the day you were personally served with the documents. Your response to the Petition will be on Family Law form 120 (FL-120). You must file the original form with the court and a $435 fee, unless you qualify for a fee waiver. You must also serve the other party with a copy of your Response. If you do not serve and file your Response within the required time, 30 days, a default may be entered against you.
7. What Happens After The Respondent Is Served?
The respondent generally has 30 days from the date that they were served to “respond” to the Petition. Unlike other civil matters, in Family court, the respondent seldom files a “general denial” or a “demurrer” in response to a Petition. One of the more frequently used motions in response to a divorce petition is a motion to transfer the case to a different court because a different court has the proper authority (jurisdiction) to hear the case. However, if the respondent files a Response to the Petition, the case is “at issue’ and the court process starts.
8. How Long Will My Divorce Take?
Technically a couple can be legally divorced 6 months and 1 day from the date the Respondent is served with the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and the Summons. However, practically speaking it may be several additional months or years before the parties can come to a full agreement on the division of property, child support, spousal support, and custody or attorney fees and have the entire case resolved. On the other hand, the parties could agree on the division of property, child custody, child support and spousal support. Regardless, the entry of judgment terminating a marriage cannot be faster than the 6 months and 1 day. This is a mandatory waiting period required by California law.
9. What Is a Preliminary Disclosure and Final Disclosure?
California requires that full and accurate disclosures of assets, debts and financial circumstance be exchanged by the parties at the early stages of a divorce in order to provide a proper and fair division of community property, and to determine “fair and sufficient” child and spousal support.
In order to reach this goal, and with few exceptions, the Family Code mandates the exchange of a “preliminary” and “final” declarations of disclosure, in all dissolution, legal separation and nullity proceedings. The declarations must include a current income and expense declarations. The parties are required to use the mandatory Judicial Council forms for the preliminary and final disclosure declaration.
A summary dissolution only requires a preliminary declaration of disclosure. Likewise, in a default case the petitioner must file the preliminary declaration of disclosure, but may waive the final disclosure requirement. The parties may also mutually agree to waive the final disclosures and the court has discretion to excuse the exchange of the final disclosure declaration upon a showing of “good cause.
In order to promote full and accurate disclosure, the actual disclosure documents are only exchanged between the parties, and not filed with the court, which would make the documents available to the public. However, upon exchange of the disclosure documents, the parties must file a proof of service with the court that the documents were exchanged. If either party serves subsequent amended disclosures, proof of service of the amended documents must be filed with the court.
There are serious monetary sanctions and other sanctions associated if one party fails to serve on the other party the preliminary and/or final declaration of disclosure or fails to do so with “sufficient particularity” as required by the Family Code. Assuming one party has complied with the exchange of disclosure documents, the complying party may make an informal request from the non-complying party for disclosure documents. The requesting party has an option to make a formal request for the disclosure documents if the other party is not forthcoming by filing a motion to compel a response or filing a motion preventing the non-responsive party from presenting evidence on issues that are covered in the disclosure declaration.
The court is also mandated to impose money sanction on the party that did not comply with the disclosure requirements. Unless there is “substantial justification” or other circumstances that would make the imposition of the sanction “unjust”, the monetary sanction must be in an amount that is sufficient to “deter” the repletion of such future conduct. (Family Code §2107(c)) The non-complying party may also be subject to other sanctions.
10. When Do I Exchange my Preliminary Declaration of Disclosures?
The California Family Code requires the parties to exchange their preliminary declaration of disclosure “after or concurrently with” the service of the Petition for divorce, legal separation or a nullity action.
Even in a default case, the Petitioner must serve her disclosures on the other party, and file the preliminary declaration of disclosure with the court. A judge will not grant a divorce if the Petitioner has not complied with this requirement.
In the event one party wants to terminate his or her status of a married person early and before finalizing all the other issues in their case (also referred to as a “bifurcation” of “status only”) the preliminary declaration of disclosure must be served before or with the motion for the bifurcated trial.
11. What is Discovery?
Family cases require the parties to exchange full disclosures of their assets and debts early in the divorce process. In some instances, the disclosures are so thorough that neither party needs to collect any further information for the other party. In other circumstances, both parties know the full extent of the marital estate and the value of the estate so that the mandatory disclosures are sufficient to document the full extent of the estate. In cases where the disclosures are insufficient or one party needs more information perhaps not addressed by the other spouse, discovery tools can be used to fill in the gaps.
Discovery is the legal process used by either party to obtain relevant material information necessary for the preparation of a case. The Discovery process starts after the Petition and Response have been filed, and before a trial begins. Both sides collect and exchange information about the case from each other or third parties in preparation of trial. The information gathered during discovery is exchanged between all parties in the case, but is not filed with the court. Some of the discovery goals are to collect facts; take party and witness depositions, find out what the other side is going to say, evaluate opponent’s case, evaluate your case and evidence; and collect evidence (documents, photos, insurance policies, reports) you need to present your case in court.
Discovery allows the parties to obtain evidence that is not readily available to that party, and in the possession, control or custody of the other party or even a third party. Each party has the right to ask for information, and barring a legal objection, the opposing party must disclose the information.
Discovery helps the parties narrow the issues in the lawsuit, provides evidence that may be used at trial to support their causes of action, and in some instances obtain admissions from the opposing party. An overriding public policy consideration for discovery is to enable a fair and speedy resolution and justice, and in order to give the litigants access to all material facts in their case. Discovery also gives the parties an opportunity to evaluate their causes of action and overall lawsuit based on the facts and information they obtain through discovery.
12. How Much Will it Cost to Complete My Divorce?
There is no easy answer to this question. Costs will vary and depend on a number of things, including the complexity of the case, how well the parties get along, your attorney’s experience, the parties and their attorneys’ reasonableness and willingness to resolve the issues or to streamline the issues before trial, the need for expert witnesses, and whether the case can be resolved before extensive discovery is conducted, and without the need for a trial.
Seeking temporary orders at the start of a case can be costly such as temporary child support and spousal support, temporary use of community property (i.e. which community vehicle each spouse will continue use of or which spouse remains in the community residence). Obtaining these orders can also be time consuming and costly especially if the parties cannot resolve these issues informally and must go to court and have a hearing before a judge.
While a good portion of divorces require little discovery in addition to the preliminary and final disclosures, discovery can be very expensive and time-consuming and can make up a large portion of the costs. The need for discovery will vary with each case, and will depend on a number of issues. For example, if the parties cannot agree on the value of the community residence or a community business, forensic accountants may be necessary to assist the parties and/or the court with the values. Sometime depositions are necessary because written discovery is insufficient or the deposition of a third party (including expert witnesses) is necessary to understand the full extent of the marital estate or when custody is an issue in the case. If expert witnesses are required to provide an opinion in support of your case or to oppose the other side’s theories and experts, the cost can increase tremendously depending on the expert’s field of expertise.
Motions and discovery also take a significant amount of attorney and staff-time to prepare the written motions filed with the court and to prepare the actual discovery, to attend court or respond to discovery. If discovery disputes arise and a motion has to be presented to a judge for resolution, this will also add to the costs.
Other costs in a case include the filing fee for the Petition and Response filed with the court, fees for filing motions, and reporter fees for trial.
13. What are Discovery Tools?
In family law there are several frequently used discovery tools that assist in the collection of evidence. Discovery is set forth in the California Code of Civil Procedure and includes some of the following discovery “tools”:
- Depositions —in-person oral questions asked that the person being deposed must answer under oath and penalty of perjury. The persons deposed may include the parties, “third-party” witnesses, expert witnesses, and custodian of records. A court reporter records everything that is said in the deposition and produces a written transcript. It is also common to videotape a deposition.
- Interrogatories —written questions directed to the other party that the other party must answer in writing and under oath. The interrogatories can be Form Interrogatories or specially prepared interrogatories. The answers can be used at trial.
- Requests for Production of Documents — requests for a specific document or a class of documents relevant to your case. A demand to inspect land may also be made under this section.
- Requests for Admissions — when a party asks the other side to admit a statement is true, or to admit to the genuineness of a document. Admissions generally allow the case to focus on what is truly in dispute. Responses to these written requests can be used at trial.
- Subpoenas — written court orders requiring the other side or a third party to testify or produce certain physical evidence such as books, records, or other documents for inspection.
14. How Does Discovery Work?
Discovery is generally obtained by the service of a notice to opposing counsel or the other party, or by service of a series of questions or demands for the examination of documents and other things. The Discovery Act, found in the California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) sets out the parameters and rules regarding discovery. There are multiple discovery tools that can used to obtain relevant information. The CCP applies to Family cases as well.
15. How is Discovery Obtained?
There are multiple methods of obtaining discovery from a party and documents in the possession or custody of a third party. Discoverable material information can be obtained by use of written interrogatories, request for production of documents and inspection of writings and other things, requests for admission, written and oral depositions and, depending on the issue, physical examinations.
During the discovery process, lawyers can object to questions, requests for admissions, interrogatories, and other requests. If the other side does not agree with the objections and insists on getting the requested information or insists on not providing the requested discovery, a motion can be filed in court to ask a judge to decide the discovery issues.
16. What is a Deposition?
Depositions are probably the best known discovery tool since depositions are frequently portrayed on TV shows and movies that have a legal theme. Depositions can be taken in most civil and criminal cases, and allow a party or witness to answer questions under oath. A deposition can assist in settlement negotiations before trial, or narrow the issues presented at trial.
An oral deposition can be taken in person, by telephone or videoconference. A deposition can also be taken in writing. Generally, the deposition of a litigant is set by serving a “notice of deposition” on the adverse party’s attorney. If the deponent is not a party to the action, a subpoena for deposition must be served on that person ordering him or her to attend the deposition. A deposition subpoena or notice can also demand that the deponent bring with him or her writings, books, records or other tangible things to the deposition.
Depending on the witness, there are specific rules about how far a deponent is required to travel to attend a deposition and starting in January 2013, the time-limit for a deposition in California state court proceedings is 7 hours. There are a few exceptions to this time-limit rule however, depending on the type of case and the type of witness being deposed.
A deposition gives the litigant’s attorney an opportunity to ask questions of the other party or witness (the deponent) under penalty of oath. The deponent’s testimony is recorded at the deposition by a certified court reporter, and later the testimony is transcribed verbatim. The party taking the deposition hires the court reporter.
The court reporter also administers an oath to the deponent at the start of the deposition and the deponent affirms that he or she will answer the questions truthfully. The deponent is then required to answer each question under penalty of perjury. In a multi-party case, each party has an option to attend the deposition and also to ask questions once the noticing party completes his or her line of questioning. The only persons required to attend a deposition is the party (or lawyer) noticing the deposition notice or subpoena, the deponent (the person answering the questions) with his or her attorney, if any.
A deposition is technically hearsay, but can be used in a court trial or hearing to impeach the witness with his or her inconsistent prior recorded statements and other limited purposes.
Depositions help to narrow issues, pin down a witness on specific facts and issues, and to obtain lay and expert witnesses’ opinions about what they intend to say at trial.
The parties can also be deposed by the adverse attorney. Before you are deposed, your lawyer will go over the parameters of a deposition, and what you can anticipate at a deposition. The key facts to remember at your deposition are to always answer each question truthfully, listen to the full question before you answer, and try to answer each specific question to the best of your ability. If you don’t recall the information that you are being asked to provide, it is ok to say “I don’t recall” or “I don’t know”. In addition to eliciting information from you under oath, the lawyer taking your deposition will be assessing your demeanor, credibility and composure. If the lawyer gets the sense that you are being untruthful or your answers are evasive the adverse lawyer will try to show these qualities to the judge or jury, and it could impact your case. The most important thing to remember at a deposition is to be yourself.
The cost of a deposition will vary and will be impacted by the witness that is deposed and the length of the deposition. It is best to discuss the cost with your lawyer ahead of time. You will be responsible for the court reporter’s fees, your lawyer’s time to prepare for the deposition and to attend the deposition, and if you are deposing an expert witness for their hourly fees, which can be substantial. After the deponent’s transcript is prepared, your lawyer will spend time to analyze it and how best to use it to impeach the witness at trial or how the testimony can be used to support or defend your case.
17. What Are Interrogatories?
Interrogatories consist of a formal set of written questions prepared by a party and sent to the other party for a response. The purpose of interrogatories, like most discovery tools, is to clarify matters of fact and assist in streamlining the issues to be presented at trial.
In California there are two types of interrogatories, “Form” interrogatories and “specially prepared” interrogatories.
Form interrogatories are questions that have been prepared and authorized by the Judicial Council. The Judicial Council is the policy making body of the California courts, the largest court system in the nation. The Council is responsible for ensuring the consistent, independent, and unbiased accessible administration of justice. The Council is under the leadership of the Chief Justice and in accordance with the California Constitution.
The Judicial Council has prepared specific Form interrogatories for Family Law cases. The form is pre-printed with questions written in a generic fashion geared to elicit general information from a party. The asking party checks of the box next to the question they want the opposing party to answer.
The party responding to the interrogatories must sign the completed responses under penalty of perjury and serve them on the propounding party. Discovery responses are typically due 30 days from date of service if personally served, or 35 days if received by mail.
Specially Prepared Interrogatories
Specially prepared interrogatories allow a party to ask specific questions related to the matters in their lawsuit. Each question must be complete in itself, and cannot be compound, contain subparts or be phrased in the conjunctive or disjunctive.
The California Civil Discovery Act allow up to thirty-five (35) specially prepared interrogatories or, “custom-written” interrogatories per party. Form interrogatories do not count against this limit. However, the 35 interrogatory limit may be exceeded by filing a declaration of necessity which must be executed under penalty of perjury. Therefore, it is a good idea to assess each interrogatory to make sure it is not deemed harassing and burdensome, which can expose a party or attorney to personal sanctions.
Like form interrogatories, the party responding to the interrogatories must sign the responses under penalty of perjury, unless the responses contain only legal objections. There is a time limit in which to respond to discovery, typically 30 days if personally served on the party, or 35 days if received by mail.
18. What is a Request for Production and Inspection of Tangible Things?
Request for production and inspection of documents and tangible things allows a party to review relevant documents and tangle things supporting their claims or defenses. Information is “relevant” if it reasonably assists a party in evaluating the case, preparing for trial, or facilitating settlement.
In addition to demanding the production and inspection of documents, books, and other writings and tangible things, a demand to enter onto land for inspection and other legal purposes is allowed under the Code of Civil Procedure.
Unlike specially prepared interrogatories and requests for admission, there is no limit in the number of request for production that can be propounded. However, if the number of requests is excessive, the party receiving the request can seek protection from the court.
If a party is unable to comply with a request he or she must indicate in their response that they have made reasonable efforts to obtain the requested information. Also, like other discovery tools, the party responding to the requests must sign the responses under penalty of perjury. The same time limit for responding to other discovery applies here as well, and typically the responding party will have 30 days to respond if personally served, or 35 days if the request was sent by mail.
19. What are Requests for Admissions?
There are two types of requests for admission, request for admission of the truth of facts, or admission of genuineness of documents. Requests for admission allow a party to obtain an admission or denial regarding relevant facts, allegations or issues. It also allows a party to authenticate or admit the genuineness of a document relevant to the case. Requests for admission are generally limited to a total of thirty-five (35) requests. However, a party may make a declaration for additional requests if necessary.
Requests for admission are propounded before trial, and can be used in trial.
The admission of a fact or the genuineness of a document will be taken as true unless it is properly rebutted with evidence at trial or unless the court allows a party to withdraw or change (amend) his or her response. If the admission remains valid, it may help in shortening the trial. This is a seldom used discovery tool in family cases, but when applicable, can be very useful to resolve issues.
20. What is the Difference Between a Subpoena and a Subpoena Duces Tecum?
A subpoena is a court order for a person to appear at a hearing, at trial, or at deposition. The subpoena can also order a party to produce requested documents or information in court or at his or her deposition. At the hearing, trial or deposition, the person will be asked oral questions, among other things, about the requested documents or information. The testimony given at trial or deposition will be recorded by a certified court reporter.
The Latin phrase “subpoena duces tecum” on the other hand, literally means “under penalty to bring with you”. A subpoena duces tecum is a judicial process which orders the production of papers, documents or other tangible items of evidence from a third party not involved in the case. The person or entity required to produce the specified documents will do so without the need to give any oral testimony.
A subpoena duces tecum must identify with specificity the documents sought, which can include papers or writings physically or electronically stored or maintained by the person or entity subject to the subpoena duces tecum. The person/entity is only required to produce documents and other information that is actually under their possession or control. Refusal without legal justification to produce a requested item may force the requesting party to seek court intervention to compel the information.
The subpoena must be as precise as possible and identify in detail the items to be produced and for a relevant time period. The subpoena must also state a specific time for production for the document. Relevant information obtained by a subpoena duces tecum can be introduced as evidence at trial.
21. What is Court Ordered Mediation?
In most California Counties, when a divorce Petition is filed and the parties have children together, the parties are automatically ordered to attend mediation. The focus of the mediation is to assist the parents in determining a temporary or long term parenting plan for their children that is in the children’s best interest and mutually agreeable to both parents.
Mediation can be ordered on the same day that the parties attend court, or by appointment prior to a future hearing date. If they attend mediation the same day, the mediator will have a report or recommendation for the court that same day.
Except in cases involving domestic violence or when a restraining order has been issued, the parents meet together with the mediator. The court mediators are often bilingual and can interact with parents who are not fluent in English. The mediator will assist the parents in reaching a parenting agreement on the amount of time each parent will be responsible for the children on a daily or weekly basis, holidays, vacations and other special days. If an agreement is reached in mediation or the parents already have a mutual plan on custody and timeshare, they can inform the mediator who will prepare report or recommendations to the judge. If no agreement is reached in mediation, the mediator will not prepare a report or a specific recommendation for the court. However, the mediator may recommend further mediation, a Child Custody Investigation, a 730 Psychological Evaluation or appointment of Minor’s counsel (appointment of a separate attorney for the child).
In a case where there is allegation of domestic violence or a restraining order, the parties will be seen separately. The mediation process is confidential, but the mediator is required to report suspected child abuse. If an agreement can be reached in light of the domestic violence or restraining order the mediator will prepare a report to the court. If no agreement is reached in mediation, the mediator will not prepare a report or a specific recommendation for the court. However, the mediator may recommend further mediation, a Child Custody Investigation, a 730 Psychological Evaluation or appointment of Minor’s counsel (appointment of a separate attorney for the child).
There is no fee for this type of mediation.
22. Can I Mediate My Entire Divorce?
The short answer is “yes”. If you and your spouse agree to the mediation process with a mediator you can start and finish your divorce with the assistance of a mutually selected mediator. This type of mediation is beneficial in a number of ways including privacy, it saves money and time, quicker results and it is less stressful than a traditional divorce handled through the court system.
California Evidence Code §115 (a) defines mediation as “a process in which a neutral person or persons facilitate communication between the disputants to assist them in reaching a mutually acceptable agreement.”
A mediator will assists the parties in coming to an agreement on custody, property division, child support and spousal support. Depending on the mediator or mediation service used, a mediator typically prepares all the court forms required for the dissolution of marriage. Once an agreement is reached at mediation, the mediator will prepare the final judgment that contains the terms reached mediation.
The most unique feature of mediation is the confidentiality afforded to the entire mediation process. A mediator cannot be compelled to disclose what was discussed by the parties or lawyers during mediation. If a resolution is not reached at mediation and the parties return to court, the parties (and lawyers, if any) are also prohibited from disclosing discussions, offers or negotiated terms proposed at mediation.
23. My Spouse and I Each Have a Lawyer, Can We Still Attend Mediation?
Yes, mediation can also be used after the divorce process has started if both of you and your lawyers agree to do so. Mediation is available to the parties even after a case is well under way.
Mediation is a method to resolve legal disputes without the need of a trial. Mediation is a voluntary process that the parties can use at a point along the dissolution. The lawyers involved in the case typically propose mediators to use in a case, and ultimately come to an agreement on a specific mediator to use in the case. A mediator can be a lawyer or a retired judge. The mediator can hear all the issues in a case and assist in resolving the entire case, or the parties can bring only selected issues to the mediator. If any agreement is reached at mediation, the mediator or the parties write the terms of the agreement, and each party signs the agreement. If worded correctly, the terms of the written agreement reached at mediation are enforceable by the court even if one of the parties changes his or her mind after they leave mediation.
A unique feature of mediation is the confidentiality afforded to the entire mediation process. A mediator cannot be compelled to disclose what was discussed by the parties or lawyers during mediation. If a resolution is not reached at mediation and the parties return to court, the parties and lawyers are also prohibited from disclosing discussions, offers or negotiated terms proposed at mediation.
24. What is a Partial Child Custody Investigation?
A Partial Child Custody Investigation (partial CCI) is a court ordered investigation when concerning information arises in a case. For example, when parents are seeking custody and a visitation plan with their children, and allegations of alcohol or drug abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, stalking/harassment, credible threats, child concealment, emotional instability, criminal history or parent estrangement (alienation) or other issues that concern the court arise, the court may order a partial CCI, limited to 3 issues.
The focus of a partial CCI is to obtain available information and to prepare a report to the court concerning issue identified by the judge, factors affecting the children’s needs and best interest, and recommendations concerning custody and visitation.
The parents are required to come to the courthouse and meet with a the CCI investigator. The investigator will collect information from the parents, teachers, doctors, dentist, church groups, friends and extended family. The investigator may also request to speak with the children if they are old enough. It takes approximately 60 days to complete the partial CCI. A $500 deposit is required, and the total estimated cost is $1000-3000.
25. What is the Difference Between a Partial Child Custody Investigation and a Child Custody Investigation?
The focus of a full Child Custody Investigation (CCI) is the same as the partial CCI, to obtain available information and to prepare a report to the court concerning issue identified by the judge, factors affecting the children’s needs and best interest, and recommendations concerning custody and visitation. The difference is however, that in a full CCI, a home visit is made by the investigator to both parent’s homes, and that the court can request more than 3 issues for investigation. A full CCI takes approximately 90 days to complete, and a $1000 deposit is required. The total estimate cost is $1500-3000.
26. What is an Emergency Investigation?
An Emergency Investigation (EI) is an expedited risk assessment performed by the court appointed investigators ordered by the court. The focus of the EI is imminent danger or risk to a spouse and/or children. Danger or risks can include, but are not limited to, alcohol or drug abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, child concealment, terrorist threats, stalking/harassment, emotional stability, criminal history and parental alienation.
Within 3-5 days of the court’s order for an EI, the investigator will make recommendations to the court for temporary orders regarding the issues identified by the court. There is no fee for this investigation.
27. What is Custody 730 Evaluation?
A custody 730 evaluation is very similar to a full Child Custody Investigation in that the custody evaluator speaks with the parties, the children, third parties, including teachers, doctors, neighbors and others, and is licensed to perform psychological testing on the parties. The evaluator will also make at least 1 home visit to each parent’s home and will, among other things, observe the interaction between the parent and child and others who may live in the home. Unlike the court mediators or investigators, a 730 evaluator does not have access to “RAP sheets” or other law enforcement records, unless the parties provide copies to the evaluator of any police reports they may have.
A 730 evaluation can take several months to complete, and the cost can range from $7500 to $15,000 or more depending on the complexity of the case and the issues. When the testing, analysis of the results and the interview process is complete, the evaluator prepares a report, usually several pages long, and submits his or her recommendations to the court. The parties can either agree on all or some of the recommendations, or they have a full hearing on the 730 process and outcome. The evaluator can be subpoenaed to court to testify and is subject to cross examination. After the hearing is completed, the judge will make an order regarding custody and visitation that is in the best interest of the child based on the evidence and testimony presented by all witnesses in court.