Many times during court proceedings involving children, parents may not agree on what should be included in a parenting plan. A parenting plan orders how parents will address decision-making for their children, how and when they will spend time with their children, and addresses other issues specific to the children. If the parents cannot agree to the terms of a parenting plan, a court may order a social investigation.
Either parent may request the court order a social investigation. If the parties agree on the need for a social investigation, and the person who will serve as the social investigator, no hearing is required. However, if there is not an agreement, the court will hold a hearing to determine if a social investigation should be ordered, and who shall be appointed as the investigator.
A social investigation is conducted by a licensed therapist, psychologist, attorney or certified social worker, who acts as a impartial professional. This person conducts an investigation into the lives of the parents, and relationship between the parents and minor children at issue. The social investigator will likely interview the parents, children, and other related persons involved in the children’s lives. The social investigator may visit the homes of the parents, or give the parents surveys or questionnaires to complete.
Upon the conclusion of the investigation, the investigator will furnish a written study containing a recommendation to the court and the parties. This recommendation may be considered by the court when it makes a decision on the parenting plan.
The cost of a social investigation can range from $2,000 to $15,000, depending on the person who conducts the social investigation, and the time needed to complete the investigation. The court may order the parents to split the cost of the investigation, or order one parent responsible for the entire cost of the investigation.
If you have questions regarding the role of social investigations in family court proceedings, please contact our attorneys at 904-353-7733.