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What is a Child Custody Home Study? by @FullCustodyDad http://DaddyGotCustody.com

What is a Child Custody Social Study?

A Child Custody Social Study, home study, or custody evaluation, is sometimes a court ordered document from which a judge may seek additional information on who should be the primary custodial parent. May times, especially in my home state of Texas, judges will ask social workers or custody evaluators to perform a social study to learn home details that they cannot otherwise determined through courtroom proceedings. Even if not court ordered, attorneys may also request a social study to be done on both parents to help decide the primary residence of your kids.

The social study itself is usually a written report investigating the parents involved in a custody suit. The report regularly includes the parents living conditions, employment, educational backgrounds, home settings, parenting styles and availability of other family members who regularly interact with the kids. These studies are conducted by case workers, social workers, or other 3rd party child custody evaluators, who are experienced and experts in with working with families and children.

This process should not be taken lightly. Many times recommendations from a social study are followed precisely by a judge when awarding custody. (It played a significant role in winning my custody suit.)

The custody evaluation primarily consists of an extensive written questionnaires about your background, your children, and others living in your home. It also includes one or more visits to your house to study your environment and your regular interactions with your children. During the first phase, you and your Ex will be asked separately to give references of people who know you and your kids. These individuals should be professionals including teachers, doctors, psychologists, therapists, caregivers and others who know you and your children well. Additional family members may also be contacted to provide additional information and to verify facts. So don’t lie on your questionnaires.

Child Custody Social Worker by Fred Campos http://DaddyGotCustody.comNext the custody evaluator will schedule at least one separate visits to you and your Ex’s home during a time that you have possession of your kids. Their purpose is to watch your interaction with your children, study your living arrangements, your availability, and decide the most beneficial home environment for the kids. For example, when my caseworker arrived at the door with a clipboard, he first asked to see the kid’s bathroom, my medicine cabinet, and my daughter’s room. I’ll dive deeper into the specific elements they are looking for and share real details of my specific home study in future posts.

Finally, all of this information, along with the home visit evaluation will be placed in a report that will be submitted to the judge in your case. This information, along with other information presented to the judge during the custody hearing, will be the basis for the court’s primary custody decision.

Tell me about your social study? Did your court or your attorney order a social study?

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Fred Campos, Top Geek, blogs about everything from House of Cards to Subway. In addition to blogging, he is a public speaker and humorist in child custody, social media, web development and parenting. He is married to one @SuperParentMom, and raising three world changers. For more details on his custody course visit, www.DaddyGotCustody.com/course. Like this post? Make sure you subscribe to this blog.

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  • Delores Collins January 4, 2016, 11:23 am

    My 11 year old daughters father and I just completed our social study. We were never married and until a year ago, the father was not very active in her life. I am confused by the social workers recommendation of 2/2/3 schedule when the child has never spent, nor desires to do so, that kind of time, she has been in counseling since the temporary order awarded him joint temporary conversatorshio because of her anger and resentment about the order. After a year, she still does not want to go during his possession periods.

    Reply
    • FullCustodyDad January 4, 2016, 1:18 pm

      Delores,

      Common question and common concern. Unless there are life threatening circumstances, severe documented external factors, it is the general belief (and backup by data) that children, especially before their late teens, should spend as much time with both parents (if possible). What is the concern of not wanting to visit dad’s house? Are those concerns legitimate and extreme?

      Parents seem so caught up in the concept that my “child” doesn’t want to go during the other parents possession. Of course they don’t. My daughter didn’t always want to visit her mom. She didn’t always want to come home either. She didn’t always want to do her homework, or brush her teeth.

      But she’s a kid, and she doesn’t get to make those decision. Furthermore, those decision should never be based on what the kids want to do. Kids are kids and custody and visitation are adult decisions.

      Be very careful that in no way your daughter’s feelings toward visiting the dad are coming from you. If so, it will slip into parental alienation and you could lose custody over it. Now if it is extreme, sexual abuse toward your daughter, or your daughter watches daily drug deals at your Ex’s, well that’s different. By the way, I’m not trying to be funny, but it does have to be “extreme.”

      For example, after my Ex was arrested for assault, my judge found my Ex a real threat to both me and my wife, yet he didn’t alter my Ex’s visitation with our daughter. Why? He stated “She won’t be a threat to your daughter on her weekends.”

      Co-parenting is hard on any circumstances. Encourage your daughter, that these are the rules, and like going to school, or brushing your teeth, it’s what’s best for the child otherwise present to the court the “extreme” harm of this schedule.

      Reply
      • Delores Collins January 6, 2016, 3:05 pm

        My concern really has to do with our daughters distress. When this started over a year ago when her father filed for custody, she resisted because she had never spent time with him. It was difficult for her to adjust to a day visit every now and then to the standard visitation, Plus, he always told her she had s choice as to visit or not. Now, it’s turned into resentment for being “made” to go (her words). This factor combined with hearing her father bash me and her step dad has turned into a really difficult situation. Everyttime she returns home, we have to go through about two days of changed behavior including her being overly clingy to defiance. While she is with her dad, I hear from her all through the night until early morning hours saying she wants to come home. Frankly, it appears that her visits with her dad causes more work for me! I certainly don’t have a peaceful night because of the phone calls and text from her. With her lack of adjustment to what is already in place, I can not imagine what we will,all go through with such a drastic change of 2/2/3. I am continually in prayer that all will work out,

        Reply
        • FullCustodyDad January 6, 2016, 8:18 pm

          Delores,

          I can SO feel your pain–your statement has been my life for the last 12 years. I have tons to say on this subject and a few suggestions. This issue is so common it actually has a name… “Re-Entry.” I think for the benefit of all, I will write a separate post about it. Stay tune, I’ll have my thoughts together in the next few days. Oh, before I forget or get back with you, I am concerned if your daughters are hearing her father “bash” you and step-dad, that is a valid and important issue that needs to stop.

          Reply
  • Delors Collins January 6, 2016, 3:08 pm

    You mentioned backup data that shows the shared parenting works, could you share a link? Thank you

    Reply
    • FullCustodyDad February 1, 2016, 10:36 am

      Delors,

      well I wasn’t referring to data that shared parenting works, just that their is significate benefits to kids visiting and spending time with their father. That was my point. Here is an article about the benefits… 10 Reasons Alienating Dad is Bad for Your Kids.

      Let me know if this helps! :)

      Reply
      • Monica November 21, 2016, 9:20 pm

        My boyfriend has been going through a divorce now for a year and a half. His ex has supervised 1 hour a week visitations due to drug addiction issues. Claims to be sober now but her actions speak otherwise.

        Anyway, the GAL gave recommendation that my boyfriend have sole custody of the kids and everything should remain as is and now they ordered a child custody study. we are both ready to rip her hair out we don’t know what more she can do to drag this out and this is her third a lawyer because she has not cooperated with the previous two. in your experience how long does it take to complete a child study?

        Reply
        • FullCustodyDad November 23, 2016, 4:28 pm

          Well in Texas I’ve seen it take anywhere from three months to two years. I am sad to tell you from the time the home study was requested until it was presented in court was about 2 1/2 years. My entire custody case took 4 1/2 years from the moment I filed until the final court order. I know, not exactly the news you wanted. These things take time. BUT… I would express this concern to your attorney and have him/her push it through as fast as possible.

          Reply
  • Randy December 21, 2016, 12:59 pm

    I have been given temporary custody of my child until the court order social study is done. I have paid my portion to have the study done her mother has not, what do I do?? Please help.
    Thankyou

    Reply
    • FullCustodyDad December 21, 2016, 3:19 pm

      Randy, if you have “temporary custody” sit back and relax. There’s no rush if you are the temporary custodian. These things take time and the longer the better (if you are seeking custody). From the time I paid the social study until the study and final were heard was two years.

      Reply
      • Coley O'Toole March 15, 2017, 10:49 pm

        My ex and I were not married and she moved to Louisiana from Texas without my permission back to her where her family lives. She could have stayed and gone back to work like we planned but after the child she chose not to. I moved out because of the abuse and stress it was causing me to ruin my new business I started a month before we found out we were having a baby. Long Story short. I filed over two years ago. A few months back I was told by the social study group that my fee was around $450 and that my ex was to pay the $3,700 because of the long distance. Well about 60 days ago I found out my fee’ was $2,100. We went to court 30 days ago because I had not had the study done and the judge gave me 30 days to pay the fee or my ex gets everything they have been asking for. The fear is Full Custody and child support way above (tripling) my current minimum wage support I have been paying. Can the judge really throw the case out and punish me for not paying the fee in time? I am also moving next week and barely affording those expenses as is. I feel this is all really bad timing. I would love nothing more than to have a social study done. My ex has finished hers but she is also being funded by her rich grandparents. We have joint conservator-ship He lives mostly with his mom. No way am I able to take care of him with my business being so young and time consuming and her not here to help. Any advice?

        Reply
        • FullCustodyDad March 19, 2017, 9:14 pm

          Coley,

          Life sometimes dishes us a bad hand at bad timing. My situation began similar to yours as I began during a failing business.

          In short my advice is going to sound a little harsh… It is time to dig in and work two jobs and decide what you want. When I first filed, I worked my business hard during the day and waited tables several nights a week to pay my attorney. Second, I would be-friend or hire an attorney like your life depended on it (because it does). I did work for my attorney to help bring down the fees.

          In short, you have to work your way out of it. Dealing with custody, even if you are not fighting for primary custody is going to be the most expensive endeavor you will ever come across.

          Hang in there and keep us posted.

          Reply
  • Ethan January 20, 2017, 10:15 am

    I have read through almost all of your articles to further understand what is involved in my upcoming home study.

    My son is 7. My visitation has been very irregular due to my prior service in the Air Force and my location. I have tried to have him as much as I can when I can but I will be the first to admit I have not been around as much as I should have or wanted.

    Recently, my son was being left at home alone and being brought up to the Mother’s work at a restraunt while she was working. Her fiancé is a convicted felon and their resources are greatly limited. She is also on welfare programs. The judge issued a rule 11 against her to ensure my son has constant adult supervision and appointed a social worker to perform a home study.

    My situation is that I have a great position with a major company and can more than provide for my family. My income is at least 3 times more than both her and her significant other. I have a M.S and a well-respected professional designation. My wife is a stay-at-home mother. I have two other boys with my wife that are some of the best behaved kids I have ever met. Our home is much more stable and well-suited for children.

    Will my irregular visitation cause the home study to not be in my favor? I have had a him a few times a year since he was born and I am now seeing him every other weekend.

    Thank You,

    Ethan

    Reply
    • FullCustodyDad January 24, 2017, 6:13 am

      Ethan,

      thanks for researching and reaching out. Hopefully the articles have been helpful. You sound like a great Dad. The social worker is going to review your current visitation status, your current availability and interaction with your son. From this moment forward you must exercise all your time with your son. I think prior Air Force service and exercised visitation will be acceptable as long as the irregularity is in the past.

      Feel free to express your concerns during the interview with the social worker. Be kind and factual. Continue to be the best parent you can be! Good luck.

      Reply
  • Kenny April 6, 2017, 4:44 pm

    Hi There,

    This is good information. My boyfriend and his ex wife have 50/50 and joint conservator-ship. She decided one day that wasn’t working for the kids, even though they have a wonderful relationship with both parents. She is requesting a social evaluation, and we have a hearing in May because she wants us to split it. How quickly after they are ordered, do they start? We are moving to a house, and would like to be in it before it starts, as we currently are in a two bedroom apartment and don’t want that to hurt our case. We were just stuck in a lease, so there wasn’t much we could do.. What are your thoughts?

    Thank you so much. You’ve provided some peace of mind.

    Reply
    • FullCustodyDad April 7, 2017, 7:05 am

      In North Texas the social study is a two part process. 1) You fill out tons of paperwork answering a series of questions, who lives where, who works where, a bit about your background etc. 2) They call you and schedule a home isit at a time when you have the kids. While it has been a while, both of these items for me and most people I know happened really slow (3-9 months).

      House is better than apartment by far, but kids feeling comfortable in an organized kid centric home is the key. Talk to your attorney but my guess if they are pushing to have the social study done, your hearing will get moved out. But before school starts for sure. — My guess anyway.

      Keep the apartment clean, be ready for the call.

      Reply
  • Mike C July 18, 2017, 8:59 pm

    Hello, my wife is going through a modification with her child’s dad. He just got out of jail rehab, since he failed his probation drug test. They gave us primary custody in the temporary orders; standard visitations 12-5 Saturday and Sunday with no sleep overs for him. They gave him the benefit of the doubt for him to spend time with his child. But his dad picks her up; which is her grandpa. The father hasn’t been spending time with her, he’s back at his old ways. He sees her for 1 hour and takes off, his father, “grandpa,” stays with her. But we have a hard time with grandpa, he tells my wife how to raise her and says their his visitation “the grandpa”. The court is asking for a social study and physiological evaluation for her, because judge says she didn’t answer his questions like a normal 13 year old. My question is should we hurry the evaluation and social study, since he’s not spending time with her? I don’t see why she going then? Mind you he owes $36,000 on back pay child support. We seek your advise on what to expect! Thank you…

    Reply
    • FullCustodyDad July 20, 2017, 6:44 am

      Michael,

      Welcome to the wonderful world of the court system. While I am not an attorney, and I always recommend you seek the advice of a local attorney that knows your court and can give you a more accurate opinion on what to expect. Nevertheless, I’ll do my best to explain what you might expect.

      In Texas there are normally three stages of a custody hearing: a temporary hearing, a social study, and a final hearing.

      Sounds like you are halfway there.

      So here is what is in store for ya’ll and probably what will happen moving forward.
      1) The social study, which can take anywhere from a few months to a year will visit your home and the home of Dad. Maybe, if you are lucky, they will interview your favorite grandfather.
      2) The social workers conducting the social study will determine primary residence, recommend to the judge what form of custody should be issued, how Dad is doing on drug recovery and to make sure there is nobody really bad harming your step-daughter. By the way, drugs and violence are considered fairly serious by caseworkers. So rest assure, right this second, I believe ya’ll will be granted primary custody in the final, and the caseworker will probably recommend sole custody for mom (which is rare). So getting out of joint custody is doable. (FYI, joint custody is usually the default.)
      3) But before you cheer too loud, if Dad is showing signs of recovery, Dad will return to standard visitation probably within a year. They may stair step it (one overnight, then two, then a weekend, etc.). Or they may give him back standard and/or extended standard immediately (that’s realistically what will probably happen after the social study). So DON’T rush it. In regards to visitation, they won’t care he is $36k behind or pawns his daughter to grandpa. For as long as grandpa is not into drugs, a sex offender, or violence.

      Hopefully this is all good news, and what you expect.

      Here’s what’s NOT going to happen, if he is recovering well from his drug problem, he probably won’t get supervised visits nor will his time be shortened. Dealing with grandpa or having him designate grandpa is going to be considered “okay” by the court. Now if the drug problem gets worse, or he starts offering it to your daughter—well then that’s a different story and all bets are off.

      Keep in mind nowadays, grandparents can file for their own visitation rights, which tend to be granted, more often in my observation, when their children are not exercising their rights.

      So where does that leave ya’ll? Hopefully this is what you expected.

      If you want step-daughter’s Dad out of your life, (not recommended) my suggestion is to focus on the child support. I put my Ex in jail a few times due to child support and it was wonderful break. Finally she agreed to go away for two years and let me raise our daughter in exchange for forgiving 45k of back child support. No matter how violent or how crazy or how many terrible things she did, the courts in TEXAS never took away any of her visitation. When she did bad things the judge would say, “She’s a terrible person, but we don’t believe she’ll be terrible to your daughter.” Courts favor both parents having access to children, no matter how bad they are. Read that line again. It’s what you can expect. Now that my daughter is grown and I have my case behind me, I tend to agree in keeping both parents involved in her life. Something to think about.

      It’s a tough road, but sounds like you’re making the best of it. Be the best parents you can be, and learn to let go on the other side. He may be into drugs, but odds are he loves his daughter as well. It’s tough, trust me I’ve been there, done that.

      FullCustodyDad

      PS. This is a great discussion, I think I’ll create a blog post around it.

      Reply
  • Ifeoma Ejekwu August 12, 2017, 2:26 am

    Hi, my question is I have two children whose father abandoned and since Oct, 2015 in Nigeria got to the USA and got married to another woman for green card basis. He came with tourist visa. Now he fraudulently got a forgery divorce letter from Nigeria that we are divorced just to change his status n get his green paper thus abandoning the kids n I back home. I waited for 9months of no communication n came to the USA with my two kids for my late daughter’s memorial in June 20,2016. Got to USA and found out why he wasn’t communicating us back home and before we left Nigeria my life n my kids was threatened. For over 12 months my ex told me never to contact him on anything conceding the children in good and in bad. In April 2017 I filed for child support n it came through in June 40,2017 and he was ordered to start paying. Lo and behold he filed for custody and also filed for home study and evaluating where I live with the kids. Our conference hearing is coming up next week and I am so lost. A man that has never cared for the kids for a day cox when he was in Nigeria he worked out of state and visits home every other weekend for two nights. Am worried cox I don’t have a job, but I have been singly taking care of the kids for over 18 months now. Since am new in this country could he win the sole legal n sole physical custody??

    Reply
    • FullCustodyDad August 12, 2017, 3:00 pm

      Ifeonma,

      take a deep breathe and let me try to answer your questions based solely on what you have told me so far. 1) While it is extremely hard to understand or fathom that your Ex is now showing interest in your children, the courts here in the US favor involvement of both parents, even if the history of one hasn’t been there for the past 18 months. 2) That said, it is highly, highly, unlikely that he will get sole and/or physical possession based on what you told me, history and the age of the children. Continue to look for a job but I would not lose sleep on the possibility of losing the kids. Good luck and check in with me from time to time.

      Reply
      • Ifeoma Ejekwu August 12, 2017, 3:24 pm

        Okay, thank you very much and my children are age 5years (boy) and 3years (girl) meanwhile immediately he got the court summon for child support he stopped working and his family is paying his bills. Am just so nervous

        Reply
      • Ifeoma Ekeocha August 19, 2017, 6:31 am

        Hello,

        Okay so we went to court on August 15,2017 and the custody case was rescheduled for a conference hearing in October 9,2915. But then we had social worker talk to both of us separately to evaluate the case and after talking to both of us I was told that our case will go for hearing because domestic violence was found, fake divorce, fraudulent visa, abandonment of d children etc. yesterday I came home and saw in my mail that my ex husband sent me notice of dismissal, that he voluntary dismiss the case without prejudice. I am a bit confused because he filed for custody in Baltimore county after we already had our child support case. But I never got a summon from Baltimore County though he sent me a copy of his filing without court stamps.I am confused because the case has our ongoing case number at Prince George’s County. Is the suit in Baltimore County not supposed to have a different case number? or is he trying to withdraw the case from Prince George’s County?

        Reply
        • FullCustodyDad August 19, 2017, 12:34 pm

          Ifeoma,

          If you have an attorney, forward your request to him to investigate. In the absence of an attorney, I would very nicely find your case number, then call the court coordinator of both Baltimore and Prince George county and ask about the status of the case. They should at the very least tell you what dates they show for that case on the dock. They should also be able to tell you if it has been dismissed.

          Reply
          • Ifeoma August 19, 2017, 2:28 pm

            Okay thank u very much and I can inbox my case number to you.