Preparing for a Social Study During Your Divorce or Child Custody Case

Preparing for a Social Study During Your Divorce or Child Custody Case

Facing a social study during your divorce or child custody case can be a daunting prospect. This article offers a concise guide to help you prepare effectively, ensuring you present your best self during this critical evaluation. Learn key strategies and practical tips to navigate this process with confidence.

Understanding Social Study Evaluations in Child Custody Disputes

In your divorce or child custody case, you and your opposing party may disagree on who should have the right to determine your child’s primary residence. This disagreement forms the core of many child custody disputes.

Currently, you might be preparing for a case that’s longer than average and might require the judge to make the final decision. Ideally, avoiding these scenarios is preferable, but sometimes it’s not possible.

In almost every case where there’s a disagreement over this issue, a social study evaluation becomes necessary. If you’re disputing conservatorship, possession, and access to your child, expect the judge to order a social study. Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, will explore what a social study entails, its impact on your case, and its potential effects on the outcome of your legal matter.

What Does the Law in Texas Say About Social Studies?

The Texas Family Code contains the state law on family law cases like the one you are going through. This includes subjects related to social studies. The key thing to understand about social studies is at their conclusion, the person who conducts the study will make a recommendation to the judge regarding which parent should have the right to designate and determine the primary residence of your child. While not every case will hinge on the social study recommendation, many cases will. Knowing what to expect could mean the difference between reaching your goals and falling short.

How Long Can a Social Study Last?

From my experience, a social study can last anywhere from six months to a year and a half in length. During the social study, the evaluator conducts interviews with you, your child’s other parent, and any relevant individuals to your case. The evaluator interviews your child, both with you and your opposing party and individually.

You and your child’s other parent must provide a list of references for the social study evaluator. These references should be able to comment on your parenting skills and history. The evaluator will interview these references to understand their perspectives on your parenting and involvement with your child. Additionally, the evaluator may interview school teachers, counselors, physicians, and other significant individuals in your child’s life.

When an Evaluation Is Complete, What Happens Next?

Preparing for a Social Study During Your Divorce or Child Custody Case

Once the evaluator completes all interviews and home inspections, they will start writing a report for your case’s judge. That report will detail their findings and explain the recommendation regarding which parent should win the right to determine your child’s primary residence.

The evaluator often makes other recommendations, such as whether to impose a geographic restriction on where the child can live and what visitation schedule the non-residential parent should follow.

I will reiterate that the judge does not have to listen only to the recommendations made in the report that the social study evaluator creates. It would be a rare instance where your judge only relies on the recommendations when it is all said and done.

Typically, the judge chooses the social study evaluator, indicating a high regard for their opinions. Therefore, even though the social study’s findings are not always decisive, they are extremely important.

When Does a Social Study Start in Your Case?

Judges usually order a social study after a temporary orders hearing. In contested child custody or divorce cases, a temporary orders hearing is common to resolve these issues. The judge may let both parties agree on the evaluator, but if there’s no agreement, the judge will appoint one.

Who Will Conduct the Social Study in Your Case?

Professionals like therapists, counselors, and those with mental health backgrounds often conduct social studies in family law cases. Licensed social workers, psychiatrists, and psychologists typically fit the bill in this regard.

Once you find out who the social study evaluator will be, look into their professional history on the internet. If you do not believe that the person has the minimum qualifications to do the job, you need to contact your attorney. They can review the evaluator’s credentials or discuss concerns during a hearing with the opposing counsel, the judge, and the evaluator.

What to Expect When You Are Interviewed in the Social Study

Preparing for a Social Study During Your Divorce or Child Custody Case

As mentioned, the social study involves interviewing you, the other parent, and your child, both individually and in group settings. So that coaching cannot occur, all of these interviews will likely take place on the same day.

The social study evaluator will want to learn how you relate to your child and vice versa. It is helpful to learn this information outside of the distractions of other people and things. Preparation for these interviews is essential. Even if you consider yourself a great, involved parent, you will likely encounter questions and subject matter that you never really consider in your day-to-day life. To provide answers that address the concerns of the social study evaluator, you will want to work with your attorney beforehand so that you can fully prepare.

Whatever parenting skills you have will be on display during this interview; many people have told me over the years that the social study interview feels forced or unnatural. I can’t necessarily disagree with these folks, but I would argue the whole premise of a family law case feels unnatural and hard to stomach a lot of times. With that said, this is the position you are in, and it is recommended that you enter the process fully prepared.

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC

If you have questions about the subject matter that we touched on today, please consider contacting the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We offer free-of-charge consultations with licensed family law attorneys six days a week where your questions can be answered in a comfortable, pressure-free environment.


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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it’s important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.

A divorce lawyer in Spring TX is skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Spring, Texas, Cypress, Spring, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, and Waller County.