What is a social study in child custody cases in Texas and what does it involve?

Dallas high-net-worth divorce attorney, Mark Scroggins, discusses a social study in Texas child custody.

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Child custody in cases can be very complex or they can be relatively easy. I mean so it’s all going to be fact dependent, so certain things you’re going to look at, and the one thing you always need to understand is the overriding issue on all of this is what is in the best interest of the child? Okay. So that’s what you’ve got to prove to the court. And if you want custody that it’s in the child’s best interest or children’s best interest that I should be the one that has primary, has a right to establish the primary domicile of the children or I’m the sole manager and conservator.

So what are the issues that the court’s going to look at? Court’s going to want to know who has been the parent who has spent the most time with the kids? What’s a day in the life of the kids in getting up and raising them? Who gets the kids up in the morning? Who gets them dressed? Who feeds them breakfast? Who takes them to school? Who picks them up from school? Who helps them with their homework? What’s the bedtime routine? Do they have extracurriculars? What are those extracurriculars? Are you involved? Do you just go to the games? Do you coach the games? You know, who is helping with homework? Who is? All of these types of things. Then you’re looking into other issues.

Are there certain issues that one parent has that the other doesn’t that concerns you? Does mom or dad exercise poor decision making skills? Does mom or dad have a drug or alcohol addiction that, you know, the kids are witnessing mom or dad drinking too much? Or even worse, are they being driven around when mom or dad are drinking too much or doing drugs, or something like that. Does mom or dad have a sex addiction? Are the kids exposed to that in any way? Do they, you know, does little Johnny go and hit the enter button on the MAC and, you know, a porn site comes up? Well, you know, the judge isn’t going to be real thrilled about that.

If the parties have, if one of the parties has any of those addictions, is it active, or are they in recovery? If they’re in recovery, how long have they been in recovery? Those are all things that are going to be very important. So let’s say that you’ve got competing interests there, where still one party thinks I should be, let’s say that we should be joint managing conservators of the kids. Now when I say joint managing conservators, all that’s talking about is rights and duties. That doesn’t have anything to do with the possession that they have, but let’s say that they’re saying we should be joint managing conservators, but I should be the person who gets to establish the primary domicile of the kids, meaning that the kids are going to live with me more than they are going to live with my spouse.

Well let’s say my spouse doesn’t agree with that. What do we do? Well you’re going to end up going to trial. Well let’s say that it’s kind of a tossup as far as what you know of the facts. What are you going to do then? Well typically you’re going to ask that a child custody evaluation is going to be done, and why are you asking that? Well because you want this expert witness to come in and do an evaluation of the parties, the relationship that they have with the kids. The, you know, where the parties live. What collateral witnesses are going to say, and have that expert be able to testify to the court who they believe should be, you know, if someone should be sole managing conservator and someone should be possessory.

If someone should be, if the parties should be joint managing conservators and one should be primary. They’re also going to make recommendations over what the possession schedule is going to be. Is someone going to have a standard possession, or is someone going to have an expanded possession order? Are the parties going to have a 50/50 possession schedule? If it’s a 50/50 possession schedule is it week on, week off. Or is it, you know, going to be with dad for two days and then mom for two days, and then you alternate weekends.

I mean, so there are a whole number of different ways that this thing can fall out, and so much is dependent on the issues that I just talked about, not to mention what are the ages of the kids? How many kids are there? Are they male or female? What issues do they have? Are there learning disabilities? Are there, you know, what other issues are out there? So it’s all going to be very, very fact dependent in the recommendations that are going to be made.

So what you need to look at coming in to meet with me or meet with some other lawyer is you need to look at how involved have I been? You know, what are the issues that I have? What are the issues that my spouse has? Who is the primary caregiver for these kids? Okay. How do I define that? What do I do with the kids on a daily basis? What does my spouse do with the kids on a daily basis? And be able to come in and articulate that so that either I or some other lawyer can sit down and tell you, okay well that’s great. Here is what I need to know, or here is what I think we need to do to get you from step A to step B.

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