Why is the court ordering a social investigation (home study) for my case?
As a general rule, social investigation findings have a great impact on time-share and parenting schedules. Anytime there are issues agreeing to a parenting plan, the court may order a social investigation/home study concerning all of the pertinent details relating to the child(ren) and each parent.
What is a Social Investigator’s Role?
I am a Social Investigator, certified to complete a home study for adoption or custody evaluations. I am a licensed mental health provider, who as serving as a Social Investigator, am a neutral and impartial third party who conducts home evaluations, having the best interest of the child(ren). Being a neutral party, as a social investigator, I am not permitted to have had previous roles with either the child(ren) or either parent.
The judge ordered a home study for my case. How do I prepare?
As your social investigator, I will ask both parents the same information before and during the evaluation process. Anything that you may think is pertinent information that should be reviewed prior to the investigation or first meeting should be written out so that you do not forget anything. If you feel those who have important insight to add, such as baby sitters, teachers, or pediatricians, please have their names and contact information available. Last but not least, being available to me as your social investigator is important to having your investigation efficiently completed and the report to the judge in a timely manner.
What happens during the home study?
During a home study, the following may happen:
Interview with child, parent, step parent, guardian, or adult performing in the role of a parent
Interview with employers and neighbors
Home visits where observations of each child with each parent will be conducted
Contact with others living in the home
Contact with professionals such as baby sitter, pediatricians, doctors, and teachers
Completion of any surveys or questionnaires that may be presented
Screening for domestic violence
Background checks with court and police records
A presentation of facts related to the case and any other pertinent details of the child(ren)’s best interest as relating to time-sharing and parental responsibilities
What happens after the investigation is completed?
Once the investigation is completed, a final report is prepared, making recommendations to the judge based off information specified in the court order. This may include information such as assessment of parents’ home environments, recommendation for parenting time, and recommendations for shared/sole parental responsibility. After the report has been forwarded to the Family Court Services by the Social Investigator, it is then forwarded to the judge, attorneys in the case, and Guardian ad Litem. In most cases, a hearing before the judge is then typically scheduled to determine the best interest of the child(ren) in order to issue a court order, as appropriate.
How long does it take to get the home study report?
Typically, I am able to have a report issued within 30-45 days of the judge’s order for social investigation and full payment for services. In some cases, as the Social Investigator, I may request an extension from the judge, however, I will need to provide a full explanation and this does not guarantee extension. It is paramount that parents cooperate with the process in order to make it easy for me as the Social Investigator to get information provided to the court without delay.
Do I have to pay for home studies conducted by the social investigator?
Yes, home studies are to be paid in full prior to the evaluation being initiated. In the order it is usually specified by the judge how the fee will be split, if not waived (this is at the discretion of the judge).
How much does it cost for the evaluation?
Please contact our office to discuss rates, retainer, or to see if we are taking new referrals for social investigations.