Social Investigations

Social Investigation/Custody Evaluation:

The task of sharing a child when you do not share your life with someone can be very challenging. Differences in opinions on many matters can lead to disputes and even on-going conflict. Pro-longed high conflict has been linked to a higher potential for negative consequences for children. At times, there are even concerns that a child may be exposed to some form of abuse or neglect. Some parents also have to deal with the very difficult task of deciding where a child will reside if one parent wants to move out of the area or state. These decisions are all impactful to a child, so a Social Investigation helps to assist the court in determining the best interest of a child. Recommendations are also given to assist the court considering the issues unique to each family. As a Social Investigator I work hard and diligently to address the issues of concern in Family Law cases in order to reduce the time a child may be in the middle of parental conflict.

What is a social investigation?

The social investigation process is performed by an impartial mental health professional who is qualified to provide the court, the parties, and the parties' attorneys with information and recommendations regarding the best interests of the child(ren). The investigator compiles all relevant information into a written report for the judge to consider when making decisions in cases involving disputes about shared parental responsibility, decision making, time-sharing, and other family law matters. The social investigator will draft a recommended parenting plan that addresses the parents' decision making authority and specific time-sharing schedules for the court's consideration.

Who is qualified to be a court-appointed social investigator?

Social investigators can be psychologists licensed pursuant to Chapter 490, Florida Statutes, or clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, or mental health counselors licensed pursuant to Chapter 491, Florida Statutes. Investigators are required to have multiple skills, including techniques for interviewing and assessing adults, children and families; conducting home studies and field investigations; identifying, organizing and understanding important collateral sources of information; administering and interpreting standardized questionnaires, surveys and other data collection tools; and report writing.

Investigators are also required to have knowledge, training and experience in the areas of child development, family systems, the effects of divorce on children and families, other issues common to families in crisis (e.g., domestic violence, substance abuse, child abuse, etc.), and the accepted standards of professional conduct governing their respective professions.

What is a Parenting Plan?

Chapter 61 of the Florida Statutes that governs family matters requires the court to order a parenting plan in proceedings involving children. A parenting plan is a document created to govern the relationship between the parties relating to decisions made regarding the minor child(ren), and it must contain a detailed time-sharing schedule for the parents and the child(ren). The parenting plan may include issues concerning the child(ren) such as the child(ren)'s education, health care, social, physical, and emotional well-being.

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