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What to Know About Parenting Plan Evaluations

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By: Wade Silverman, Ph.D., ABPP

In the state of Florida parenting plan evaluations (social investigations) are requested by family lawyers, and evaluators are appointed by the court, FL Statute 61.20. As such the investigator who is appointed works for the court to assist the Trier of Fact in deciding what is in the best interest of the child.

The investigator first requests a copy of the court order appointment. This defines the scope of the investigation and any specific issues that need to be addressed. Lawyers representing each party are then asked by the evaluator to submit information they deem relevant to the investigation. The investigator may request additional information, not necessarily provided by each party, including vocational, educational, and military records.

The investigation is comprehensive, including clinical interviews with each parent, all children, all combinations of children and parents, home visits, and collateral interviews requested by lawyers or chosen by the investigator. The investigator may also want specific material related to the case including accusations of child or domestic abuse, substance abuse, and parental alienation.

Psychological testing may be required if mental health issues such as impulsivity, poor judgment or suicidal behavior are alleged. Testing may be requested for cognitive issues such as developmental delays, poor achievement, learning disabilities, or attention deficit disorder.

Red flags or troubling findings in testing results of parents included reported hallucinations or delusions, suicidal ideation, substance abuse, impulse control problem, violence, or parental alienation behavior. These types of findings should be addressed thoroughly in the comprehensive report to the court and may require referrals to the appropriate professionals.

Red flags for children include suicidal ideation, alienation from peers, poor attention and concentration and/or the documentation of special needs such as attention deficit disorder and/ or learning disabilities.

The comprehensive parenting plan evaluation of the investigator should address all items of FL Statute 61.13(3). The report should also include discussions of parental decision making in the areas of health, education and extracurricular activities.

*Reprinted with permission. Dr. Wade H. Silverman is a Board Certified clinical psychologist and forensic psychologist with offices based in Aventura, Boca Raton, and Coral Gables.

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