Florida divorce professionals part 1: Social investigators

Under Florida law, a judge can order a social investigation and study when the parents cannot agree to an appropriate parenting plan themselves and the court would like to see evidence about each parent to make a better-informed custody decision. 

A parenting plan is a document that divides in detail parental responsibilities in a child custody case. For example, the plan must include: 

  • How the parents will share day-to-day care of the child
  • Time-sharing schedule for daily life, school vacations, birthdays and holidays
  • How the parents will share or divide major life decision-making responsibilities for the child in matters like education, religion, and mental and physical health
  • Communication methods between the parents and child when they are apart

Role of the investigator 

If the parents are unable to negotiate a parenting plan acceptable to the judge, then issues of custody and visitation are contested, and the judge must make these decisions. The social investigator will investigate each parent and his or her “pertinent details” that impact the child’s best interests. 

The investigator provides a written report with recommendations to the court and to each party. The study must contain a “statement of facts” upon which the investigator based his or her recommendations. This report is automatically admissible as evidence in custody matters. 

Each party, however, may present relevant evidence to the court that sheds light on the accuracy or reliability of the study. 

Who can be the investigator? 

The court may appoint as the social investigator: 

  • Qualified court staff
  • Licensed child placement agency
  • Licensed psychologist
  • Clinical social worker
  • Marriage and family therapist
  • Licensed mental health counselor 

If a parent presents adequate evidence to the court of indigence (being unable to pay court costs because of low income and assets) and the court does not have sufficient staff to conduct the study, the judge can ask the Department of Children and Families to do so. Otherwise, the parents have responsibility to pay the cost of the investigation and study as part of court costs. 

Florida courts have said that the court cannot delegate to the social investigator the authority to make decisions about custody and parent access to children. The court may weigh and consider the investigator’s opinion and recommendation, but the ultimate decision can only be the judge’s. 

At our law firm, we represent and advise parents about all matters related to custody and visitation, including undergoing and responding to social investigations and studies. 

In our next post about professionals involved with the Florida divorce process, we will discuss the role of the guardian ad litem.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information
  • The Law Office of Daniel E. Forrest represents individuals in Fort Lauderdale in high-asset divorce matters. Daniel Forrest is board-certified family lawyer and mediator serving the South Florida area.
  • The Florida Bar - Board Certified | Marital & Family Law
  • AV(R) Preeminent Martindale-Hubbell(R) Lawyer Ratings
  • Rated By Super Lawyers | Rising Stars Daniel Forrest | SuperLawyers.com
  • Avvo Rating 10.0 Superb | Top Attorney Family
EMAIL US FOR A RESPONSE

Learn More About Your Legal Options

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information
disclaimer.

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.

close

Privacy Policy

Office
450 East Las Olas Boulevard
Suite 1090
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301

Toll Free: 800-642-8160
Phone: 954-800-5000
Fax: 954-252-4095
Map & Directions

Phone