There are many aspects to a social study evaluation. You can expect a typical social study evaluation to take from 8 to 18 months to complete. During this time period, the social study evaluator will review information provided by each party, including but not limited to collateral witnesses and documentation (this could include review of medical records, school records, police reports, etc.), references and reference letters, personal history questionnaires, and other written information. In addition to written information, the social study evaluator will also interview and observe both parents and the children, separately and with each parent.
During the social study process, you will be asked to complete written documentation and provide the same to the social study evaluator. You will be asked to provide information regarding your childhood upbringing, educational history, medical history, parenting strengths and weaknesses, concerns regarding the other parent, and other relevant information requested by the social study evaluator. You will also be required to disclose your prior criminal history, medical history, and substance abuse history. It is important to be candid when providing this information to the social study evaluator. If you have a “past” to disclose, regardless of how distant it may be, you should err on the side of disclosing too much rather than too little. My advice is that when completing your social study questionnaire, you should be the person to disclose any “skeletons in your closet.” It is better for this information to come from you rather than the other party. No one has had perfect past.
I generally advise clients to complete the questionnaire by themselves initially. At some point prior to returning this information to the social study evaluator it is best to have your attorney review the information for any errors, etc. Keep in mind that this is your opportunity to provide the social study evaluator with information relating to the support system, including family and friends that will be assisting you with your journey as a “single parent.”
This is also your opportunity to indicate to the social study evaluator your desires regarding parenting time with your children. If you desire to be the primary conservator of the children and/or if you desire to have equal parenting time with the other parent, then now is the time to tell the social study evaluator. In doing so, you must have a solid plan for how you intend to provide your child/children with a stable and consistent home environment while in your care. You need to have a plan for how you are going to provide for the children financially, emotionally, and mentally. Tell the social study evaluator how you plan to get them to and from school/extracurricular activities on a daily basis. Additionally, you should provide the social study evaluator with information relating to how you plan to meet their medical and educational needs. It is not enough to say that you want to be the primary conservator or share parenting time with the other parent. You must have a plan and be prepared to discuss it. This means knowing your children’s medical, educational, and emotional needs.