Don’s Desk: The Confidentiality of Child Custody Proceedings

Monday, May 6, 2019 | 7:44 pm

Donald Schweitzer is a Board Certified Family Law Specialist who helps Pasadena families.

The YouTube channel for the Law Offices of Donald Schweitzer includes a wealth of helpful information related to family law. The inaugural episode of “Don’s Desk” covers the importance of obeying the codes governing child custody proceedings.

One of the most distressing and unfortunate aspects of divorce cases occurs when a party’s personal problems are dragged through the court. This is especially likely to occur in child custody evaluations.

When a dispute over child custody arrangements occurs, the court appoints child custody evaluators who investigate the claims made against each party. These reports contain a description of the investigation, a summary of their findings, and specific recommendations of a parenting plan.

Because of the intimate nature of investigations into one’s personal and family history, these reports can contain information that would be highly embarrassing to a party if it were released in public. Examples of this type of information include psychological assessments, references to criminal records, and history of drug and alcohol abuse.

In order to protect folks from unwarranted disclosures of the child custody reports, the California legislature enacted a code that prevents people from disclosing these reports to anyone except a small group of people. This group includes a party to the proceedings, their attorney, a federal or state law enforcement officer, the licensing entity of a child custody evaluator, a judicial officer, a court employee, or a family court facilitator of the superior court

If these reports are in fact released unwarrantedly, substantial penalties can be levied against the perpetrator.

For example, in the marriage of Anka and Yeager, the California Court of Appeal upheld a trial court’s $50,000 sanction against an attorney for disclosing the information contained in a confidential child custody report.

The attorney was ordered to pay the amount to her client’s ex-husband, who she had deposed during her client’s divorce proceeding related to her second husband. The attorney and her client argued that the disclosure was not unlawful because it occurred during a deposition and the only people present were the parties, their attorneys, the court reporter, and the videographer.

However, the court disagreed based on the fact that the court reporter and the videographer were not the types of people included in the family code. The court of appeal upheld the trial court’s decision, arguing that the sanction was reasonable and enough to deter future conduct, and the attorney was ordered to pay the $50,000 amount.

Parties and their attorneys should therefore be in strict compliance with the rules that govern when these reports can be disclosed and to whom they can be disclosed.

The Law Offices of Donald P. Schweitzer are located at 201 South Lake Ave Ste. 800, in Pasadena. For more information call (626) 683-8113 or visit pasadenalawoffice.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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