A social investigation or child custody evaluation (can also be known as or include family evaluation, forensic evaluation, parenting plan evaluation) is a formal evaluation process conducted by an impartial mental health professional who is qualified to administer, score, apply and provide evaluation/instrument results, information and make recommendations regarding Florida’s statutory criteria 61.13 the best interests of the child(ren) to the court and the involved parties and their attorneys. This process is required by the courts before a judge decides custody decisions; In Florida, the court will make child custody decisions based on what is in the best interest of the child if the parents can’t come to an agreement. Rather than the courts relying only on the self-reported testimony of two parents who each have their own biases and agendas, the court will give considerable weight to the objective findings of an independent child custody evaluator or social investigator. The Child Custody Evaluator must be a neutral and impartial mental health professional, who does not have an existing counseling relationship with either parent or with the child.
The investigator summarizes, compiles all relevant information and makes recommendations and a recommended parenting plan into the written report for the judge to consider when making decisions in cases involving parental responsibility, decision making, time-sharing, and other family law matters.
The court will order that parental responsibility be shared by both parents unless the court finds that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child. Going to court to fight for sole custody or a greater parenting role triggers an extensive, expensive child custody evaluation process. The social investigator or child custody evaluator is not concerned with assessing which parent is “better” or who is unfit to parent, but which of any number of possible custody arrangements would serve the best interests of the child.
If the attorneys are unable to agree on a social investigator or child custody evaluator, each party will submit a list, and the judge will choose the evaluator. If you do not have attorneys and cannot agree which professional to hire for child custody evaluation, each party will provide a list to the judge and the judge will choose one.
Whittaker Family Services, LLC understands that you want to protect your children and preserve your relationship with them. We handle all facets of child custody and visitation. Please click this link to view Christine Whittaker, LMFT resume so you can see her extensive experience and certifications that qualify her to be your Family Divorce Mediator, Child Custody Evaluator or Social Investigator. We provide honest and realistic explorations related to out-of-court solutions in Tampa, Florida.