Can a social study report be used in court if it isn’t complete?

Question:

My wife filed for divorce, withdrew this suit, then moved out of state with our children. I refiled for divorce hoping it would bring them back to Texas. My current attorney ordered a social study that is underway.

However, the case worker says she will not do a home visit locally because she will not travel out of state to where the children are currently living. Can a social study report be used in court if it isn’t complete?

Answer:

First, let me preface my answer by stating that I am not licensed to practice law in the state of Texas. The information in the article is general in nature. You should contact an attorney in your jurisdiction immediately to discuss the specifics of your case and your options.

In Texas, the court may order a social study into the circumstances and conditions of the child, and of the home, of any person requesting managing conservatorship or possession of the child. The order will normally say what is to be investigated, who will perform the investigation, when it must be completed by and when a report must be written. You should be able to obtain this information from your attorney or the court.

These assessments review the current circumstances and conditions of the family, the needs of the children, and the ability of each party to meet the children’s needs. Social studies are intended to give the judge enough credible information upon which to make decisions concerning the children. The social worker that does the investigation will write a report and submit it to the judge. The social worker can also be called to testify at trial. The reports that social workers generate carry a great deal of weight with the judge. Judges routinely use the social study to provide them with as much of the important information they want to know, but cannot otherwise obtain.

I agree with you that it would be important to do a home visit where your children are currently residing. You should check the social study order to see if the judge also thought that was important. If it was not part of the judge’s order, the social worker is not obligated to leave the state to do the investigation. You may be able to petition the court to have it done. If it is part of the order, your attorney should alert the judge that the social worker has indicated he or she will not be doing it. It may be the case, that because you are requesting to have possession of your children, that the court only wants to know if your home is safe and fit for the children, and if you have the capacity to care for them, based on what is their best interests.

You should contact an attorney who is licensed in Texas to further discuss the specifics of your situation. Cordell & Cordell does represent clients in Texas. Thank you for submitting your question.

 

 Jill A. Duffy is an Associate Attorney in the Troy, Mich., office of Cordell & Cordell. She is licensed to practice in the state of Michigan. Ms. Duffy received her BA in Psychology and Spanish and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Oakland University. She received her Juris Doctor from Michigan State University College of Law and graduated Magna Cum Laude.  

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