There are many aspects to a social study evaluation. You can expect a typical social study evaluation to take from 8 to 18 months to complete. During this time period, the social study evaluator will review information provided by each party, including but not limited to collateral witnesses and documentation (this could include review of medical records, school records, police reports, etc.), references and reference letters, personal history questionnaires, and other written information. In addition to written information, the social study evaluator will also interview and observe both parents and the children, separately and with each parent.

During the social study process, you will be asked to complete written documentation and provide the same to the social study evaluator. You will be asked to provide information regarding your childhood upbringing, educational history, medical history, parenting strengths and weaknesses, concerns regarding the other parent, and other relevant information requested by the social study evaluator. You will also be required to disclose your prior criminal history, medical history, and substance abuse history. It is important to be candid when providing this information to the social study evaluator. If you have a “past” to disclose, regardless of how distant it may be, you should err on the side of disclosing too much rather than too little. My advice is that when completing your social study questionnaire, you should be the person to disclose any “skeletons in your closet.” It is better for this information to come from you rather than the other party. No one has had perfect past.

I generally advise clients to complete the questionnaire by themselves initially. At some point prior to returning this information to the social study evaluator it is best to have your attorney review the information for any errors, etc. Keep in mind that this is your opportunity to provide the social study evaluator with information relating to the support system, including family and friends that will be assisting you with your journey as a “single parent.”

This is also your opportunity to indicate to the social study evaluator your desires regarding parenting time with your children. If you desire to be the primary conservator of the children and/or if you desire to have equal parenting time with the other parent, then now is the time to tell the social study evaluator. In doing so, you must have a solid plan for how you intend to provide your child/children with a stable and consistent home environment while in your care. You need to have a plan for how you are going to provide for the children financially, emotionally, and mentally. Tell the social study evaluator how you plan to get them to and from school/extracurricular activities on a daily basis. Additionally, you should provide the social study evaluator with information relating to how you plan to meet their medical and educational needs. It is not enough to say that you want to be the primary conservator or share parenting time with the other parent. You must have a plan and be prepared to discuss it. This means knowing your children’s medical, educational, and emotional needs.
 

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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, 2011-2018, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. In 2014-2018, Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2016 and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.