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What is a Social Investigation in a Florida Custody Matter?

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A social investigation is an evaluation, where an impartial examiner will assess each party, the children, and any other necessary sources in order to form an opinion as to what is in the child’s best interest. The examiner will form an opinion as to how the parents should share their parental responsibility and recommend the best timesharing schedule for the children and each parent. The judge in the case reviews those opinions, then makes a final judgment. 

Procedure of Obtaining a Social Investigation: 

The court may order a social investigation either upon the agreement of both parents, upon the request by one parent, or upon the court’s motion when the parents fail to agree on parental responsibility and timesharing. The court may either appoint a social investigator, or the parents may stipulate to a private social investigator for their case. 

Reasons a Social Investigation May be Necessary: 

Whether a social investigation is right for a given matter differs from case to case. One example where a social investigation may be necessary is where one parent calls the other parents parenting into question. The court will often order an investigation, so the judge has unbiased information on what is in the best interest of the child(ren). Another example is a case where there are special circumstances such as child abuse/neglect, domestic violence, substance abuse, mental illness, relocation, etc. No matter the reason, the purpose of the social investigation is to determine the best interest of the child(ren). 

What Happens in a Social Investigation? 

In some instances, the judge may request a particular focus for the investigation, but the investigator can inquire about anything relevant to the children’s welfare and the given issues in the case. The investigator will evaluate both the parents and the children through:  

  • Interviews 
  • Observations of interactions 
  • Psychological assessments 
  • Academic, criminal, and/or medical records 
  • Surprise or scheduled visits 

In addition to the parents and the children, the investigator may also interview doctors or therapists, grandparents, teachers, coworkers, childcare providers, stepparents, other children in the home, or character references that each parent suggests to the investigator. 

After this whole process, the investigator will then write a report for the judge that will include their recommendations for parental responsibility and timesharing. The report compiles all information collected in the investigation and assesses each parents’ mental health, ability to co-parent, relationships with the children, strengths and weaknesses as a parent, ability to support the child(ren)’s needs, etc. 

Social investigations add complication and stress to an already challenging process. If your divorce matter includes a social investigation, remember that it is all worth it as it is to determine the best interests of your chil(ren), and that is most important.  

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