When a divorce happens, feelings and emotions are high. However, when children are involved, it is important that the Court evaluate both parents and consider their mental health and ability to care for their children, and determine what is in the best interests of the children. The State of Florida no longer awards one parent custody of the children; instead, there are parenting plans which include timesharing schedules. One parent may have the children more than the other, or the parents may have equal time with the children. Because the Court must determine what timesharing schedule is in the best interests of the children, many times a social investigation will be performed.
This type of investigation is usually performed by a mental health professional, one who has no prior relationship with either of the parties or the children. The Social Investigator is a neutral and impartial third party, thus his or her opinions and recommendations will carry great weight with the Court. The Social Investigator will evaluate both parents, including their lifestyles, and make a recommendation as to which parent the children would be better off spending more of their time with, or if the children should spend equal time with the parents. The Social Investigator will outline all of his or her findings and recommendations in a report that is presented to the Court. In addition, he or she will submit a proposed parenting plan that best fits the needs of the children.
During a social investigation many things will be considered and reviewed by the Social Investigator, including the following:
• Background checks, checks of police records and the like concerning both parents
• Interviews with the children are conducted
• Interviews with both parents
• Character references submitted by both parents are interviewed
• Doctors, employers, and other professionals are interviewed about the parents and children
Once these assessments are made, the report and parenting plan are then drawn up, and include findings and recommendations by the Social Investigator.
Since the social investigation is such a huge component of the parenting plan and timesharing schedule, the findings and recommendations of the Social Investigator will have a huge effect on the final timeshare plan. In most cases, the Court agrees with the Social Investigator and implements the recommended parenting plan and timesharing schedule.
For those who are going through a divorce or who are arranging a timesharing schedule, Wendy Norman is a family attorney who has been practicing in the Jacksonville area for over 15 years. She has had many cases involving social investigations and can help you prepare for what is to come. Simply give her a call today to discuss your case!