Kathy Macchione Leggett, LMHC, is
Qualified to Perform Court Appointed Social Investigations
If you need an experienced professional, neutral opinion on custody, time-sharing, and support arrangements you may want to consider having the court order a Social Investigation.
If shared parental responsibility appears to be detrimental to the children the court may order a Social Investigation to determine a parenting plan in the best interest of the children.
A Determination of Parental Fitness
Court-ordered and the court has final authority for all decisions.
May be ordered when a parenting plan is at issue because the parents are unable to agree
May be ordered due to allegations a child may be at risk.
Results in a written report and recommended parenting plan provided to the court to consider when making decisions.
Who is qualified to be a court-appointed social investigator?
- psychologists licensed pursuant to Chapter 490, Florida Statutes
- clinical social workers
- marriage and family therapists
- mental health counselors licensed pursuant to Chapter 491, Florida Statute
The areas of assessment may include, but are not limited to any or all of the following:
- Interviews with each child, parent, stepparent, or adult in a parenting role.
- Contact with relevant professionals, such as teachers, doctors, and employers.
- Interviews with objective character references submitted by each parent.
- Visits to the homes of each parent.
- Background checks of relevant police and court records.
- Completion of relevant surveys and questionnaires as requested by the social investigator.
- Presentation of facts to the court offering professional opinions as to parental responsibility, and time-sharing arrangements that are in the best interest of the child(ren).
How are decisions made following a social investigation?
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. 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. In that case, the court may order sole parental responsibility as a measure to best protect the child.
The court may give one parent ultimate responsibility for specific aspects of a child’s welfare, such as primary residence, education, or medical and dental care. In deciding which parent should have a primary residence, the court will consider:
- Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and continuing contact with the nonresidential parent
- The love, affection and other emotional ties between the parents and the child
- Each parent’s ability to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, and other material needs
- The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity
- The permanence of the existing or proposed custodial home
- The moral fitness of the parents
- The mental and physical health of the parents
- The home, school and community record of the child
- The reference of the child, if the child is intelligent, understanding and experienced enough to express a preference
- Evidence of domestic violence or child abuse
After the custody order is signed by the judge and filed with the court clerk, both parents are bound by it. If a parent is denied court-ordered access to a child, he or she may bring the issue back before the court. The judge may decide to modify the time-sharing order, order makeup time-sharing for the time missed and order counseling or mediation.
Social Investigations are conducted by court appointment only
*Social Investigations are conducted under the same standards as Child Custody Evaluations and all components under 61.13, should be addressed. I follow the Standards of Practice: Model Standards of Practice for Child Custody Evaluations, which can be viewed in detail at www.afccnet.org/resources/standards_practice.asp.
More information on the qualifications and the role of a Social Investigator can be found at: https://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2011/61.20