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What is a Social Investigation in a Child Custody Case?

When there is a child or children involved in a divorce in the state of Florida, one of the main goals and responsibilities of the court is to ensure that the best interests of the child are protected in any and all child custody matters. In strongly emotional or combative situations, where tensions are high, it is often necessary to have a social investigation conducted by a mental health professional.

Understanding the Need for a Social Investigation in Child Custody Cases

Florida has eliminated the practice of giving one parent full custody of a child (unless it is warranted) and now relies on a model that is based on timesharing schedules and parenting plans.

Child Custody

Keep in mind, a child custody attorney can work to help protect one parent’s legal interests, but “custody” isn’t a term that is recognized in the state of Florida anymore.

However, if parents are not able to agree on a parenting plan, then the 2016 Florida Statutes state that the court may order a social investigation to take place. This will investigate all pertinent details that relate to each parent and the child (or children) in question.

Child Custody and the Role of the Social Investigator

In most cases, the social investigator is a mental health professional and always an impartial, neutral third party. Another option is that the court may appoint a licensed psychologist, a family therapist or a clinical social worker to handle this process. In any situation, the investigator has to be neutral, which means they cannot have an existing relationship with the children or either parent.

What is Investigated during a Child Custody Social Investigation?

When a social investigation is ordered, the court will appoint the investigator and outline the specific issues that need to be addressed. Some of the issues that are investigated during this process include:

  • Concerns about the time-sharing schedule
  • Modification of the existing plan in place
  • Determination of a parenting plan/schedule
  • Additional issues related to the parenting plans or schedules

When making these determinations, the investigator is going to analyze each parent, their lifestyle and predilections prior to making any recommendation regarding parenting time issues. Some assessments and considerations that are made during the social investigation include:

  • Checking the parent’s police records
  • Background checks
  • Interviewing employers or other professionals
  • Interviewing the character references for each parent
  • Interviewing the children and parents

What the investigator discovers may lead them to recommend equal time, or for the children to spend more time with one parent. In some cases, which are rare, if there is an unfit parent, it could lead to the investigator recommending that one of the parents receives all of the parenting time. In most cases, the court is going to put a great deal of importance on what the Investigator finds and recommends.

If the court has ordered a social investigation, or if you are worried about the parenting plan being created, you should hire a child custody attorney in Florida. If you have questions or need more information about this situation, contact the lawyers at the Estevez-Pazos Law Firm by calling 305-717-7130.

Additional Reading:

Understanding the Uniform Child Custody Act and How it Protects Your Court Orders

Miami Family Attorney Discusses: How to Handle Time-Sharing to Keep the Peace

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