Governor Brown signs Wieckowski bill to improve child custody evaluations

SB 594 improves child safety by requiring uniform and complete evaluations

July 17, 2015

Sacramento - A bill by Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) aimed at eliminating faulty and incomplete child custody evaluations was signed yesterday by Governor Jerry Brown.  SB 594 improves child safety and court efficiency by requiring uniform and complete investigations that meet mandatory minimum standards of practice. 

“Reports that are not complete or not properly prepared pose great risks to children and those risks are magnified when domestic violence or sexual abuse is involved,” said Wieckowski, a member of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee.  “This bill will restore trust and better safeguard California’s children by increasing accountability and professionalism in evaluations.”

SB 594 specifies that a child custody evaluation, investigation or assessment, and any resulting report, may only be considered by the court if it is conducted in accordance with minimum requirements.  The bill allows for an appropriate level of judicial flexibility by permitting reports with nonsubstantive or inconsequential errors.

Supporters of the bill testified before the Legislature that incomplete and botched evaluations with unsubstantiated claims have led to children being molested, assaulted and even killed in the custody of unfit parents.  Roughly 85 percent of family court litigants are self-represented and once improper evaluations are admitted into court proceedings they are difficult to counter.

“No child should be sent into a violent environment that jeopardizes her safety,” Wieckowski said.  “SB 594 will go a long way to eliminating the horror stories of poor evaluations.”

SB 594 received strong, bipartisan support in the Legislature.  It was also supported by the Center for Judicial Excellence, Crime Victims United of California, the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project, the Family Violence and Sexual Assault Institute and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, along with other organizations.

Senator Wieckowski’s 10th District stretches from southern Alameda County to northeast Santa Clara County.