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Social Investigation and Child Custody Evaluation 101

Social Investigation and Child Custody Evaluation 101

No family is perfect, and all have their ups and downs. But what happens when the health of a family is under question?

There are circumstances where the inner workings of a household are forced under examination by the court of law. In the majority of cases, it’s the well-being of a child or children that are at the center of the investigation. The official name of this is called a Social Investigation or Child Custody Evaluation.

You may be thinking, “Well my family has its flaws, are we subject to investigation or evaluation?” Know this, these aren’t random studies that occur if someone sees little Kelsey or Noah misbehaving at Target. No, an investigation or evaluation is ordered for several reasons. These includes:

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Child Custody Home Study/Evaluation

What is a Child Custody Evaluation?

Child Custody Evaluations
(often referred to as “Social Study Evaluations” or “Social Investigations”)
“Child custody evaluation is a process through which recommendations for the custody of, parenting of, and access to children can be made to the court in those cases in which the parents are unable to work out their own parenting plans.”

From “Model Standards of Practice” of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (1994). The most current version of the AFCC model standards can be found here.

General Overview

When conducting a custody evaluation the goal is to assess the ways in which each parent contributes to the physical, emotional and social development of the children in question. The role of any professional conducting a child custody evaluation involves neutrality and transparency. Evaluators should always strive to serve impartially, never as an advocate for one parent or the other. In the end the goal is to make recommendations to the court as to how both parents can best meet the needs and interests of the children involved.

Preparing for the evaluation:

Cooperate with the evaluator. They are there to help the family and the judge to decide on what will be in the best interests of the children.
Separate marriage problems from parenting concerns. There may still be a lot of hurt and anger toward the other parent, however, marital issues may not be relevant to timesharing issues.
Don’t look at the custody evaluation process as a “win/lose” situation. This is a good time to try to put the past behind and focus on the future.
Parents can help their children by being open and honest with the evaluator.
The evaluator can be a resource of information. Ask about reading material, parent education classes, counseling and other help.
Keep appointments.
Organize school, health and other information that will be helpful.
Make notes of the questions that should be asked of the evaluator.