References and Reference Letters: During your social study evaluation, you will be required to submit reference letters to the social study evaluator. The number of personal references and reference letters requested can range from 3 or more. The following are some points to keep in mind when deciding who your references should be and what the focus of the reference letters should be.

1. DO NOT have family members serve as all of your references. Although family members as references can be helpful, generally family members are thought to be more biased for obvious reasons. The purpose of providing your references in a social study evaluation is so that the social study evaluator can obtain information regarding your parenting skills and involvement from as many difference sources as possible. Therefore, school teachers, babysitters, neighbors, friends, and/or co-workers can serve as excellent references. They tend to be thought of as more neutral.

2. DO NOT submit more personal references and/or reference letters than requested by the social study evaluator. Doing so would illustrate that you cannot follow instructions. If you have more references that you would like to submit, then advise the social study evaluator that you have more, and request his/her permission to submit more references.

3. DO contact your personal references and let them know that they may be contacted by your social study evaluator. Make sure that your references know the name of the social study evaluator assigned to your case. Generally, the social study evaluator will mail a reference questionnaire directly to the references that you listed in your initial paperwork. However, you do want to let your references know to expect a letter in the mail, email, or possibly a phone call from your social study evaluator.

4. DO make sure that your reference letters are completed and returned to the social study evaluator by the deadline. The social study evaluator will let you and your references know when he/she would like the completed reference letters.

5. DO make sure to inform your personal references that the point of them completing these letters is to discuss your character, but more importantly to discuss your strengths as a parent. In my opinion, this is a task that can be easily completed by having your references write about their personal observations of you interacting with your children. For example, your interaction with your children at soccer games, school functions, medical appointments, etc.

6. DO NOT have your personal references include negative attributes about the other parent involved in the social study evaluation. These reference letters are your opportunity to have people build you up as a parent and to discuss your strengths as a parent. Many social study evaluators will set a page limit for the reference letter. Do not let your references spend their valuable space disparaging the other parent. There is a time and place for everything. You will have the opportunity to discuss your concerns about the other parent during the social study evaluation. However, reference letters are not the time or the place.