Divorce is rarely a clear-cut, simple matter, particularly when children are involved. Many Texas couples face the prospect of contested child custody and even access to children in some cases. In these instances, a court will order what is called a social study evaluation to be completed.
For instance, you and your spouse have decided a divorce is the only option, but you do not feel your spouse should have full custody. You believe that you are the best suited to that role. Your spouse disagrees vehemently – the court will need to determine what is in the best interests of your child.
What Is a Social Study Evaluation?
In a nutshell, this is an evaluation of each parent’s social situation, and will include interviews with multiple references, in-home interviews with each parent, as well as consultations with other people within the sphere of the divorce, such as teachers or daycare providers. The purpose is to build a strong image of how well suited each parent is to caring for the child, how much time they spend with them, and how best to structure custody and visitation. A social study evaluation may take as little as four months to complete, or as long as 18 months.
What You Need to Know
There are several things that you must know about going through a social study evaluation. These are detailed below.
- References – Do not list only family members as references. They are often biased. Find unbiased references, including family friends or even teachers.
- Let Them Know – Make sure that your references know they may be contacted by an evaluator.
- Your Home Matters – The evaluation will include a wide range of factors, but an evaluation of your home is one of the most crucial.
- Interviews – The evaluator will interview both you and your spouse, separately, and they will observe each child involved in the divorce in the care of each parent.
- How You Act – It’s essential that you are able to act natural and normal with your child(ren) during the evaluation. However, you also need to consider how you act around them and interact with them at other times, such as when in the presence of someone who may have been named as a reference for your spouse.
- Do Not Ask – The evaluator is prohibited by Texas law from giving you any sort of information about how things are going, or their opinion on any matter pertaining to the custody case, so do not ask.
- Review – The evaluation must be filed by a specific date and then must be provided to the attorneys on each side, so take the time to review your evaluation when it is finished.
Completing a social study evaluation can be a daunting prospect, particularly when dealing with other issues within a contested divorce. The right legal representation can make a lot of difference. If you are about to begin a contested divorce involving children, a social study evaluation will likely be required. Contact the Law Offices of Sharita Blacknall to schedule a consultation on your case. Call us at 214-678-9111.