During the social study evaluation process, the social study evaluator will conduct personal interviews with each parent and the children. The social study evaluator should interview each child individually outside of the presence of the parents. Additionally, the social study evaluator should interview each parent individually (individual interview). Finally, the social study evaluator should interview the child/children with each parent (group interview). These interviews could all take place on the same day.

The purpose of these interviews is for the social study evaluator to ask any questions of the parents and/or the children out of the hearing of the other. Another purpose of these interviews is for the social study evaluator to gain insight regarding the parent-child relationship of each parent and the children through personal observation of the parents and the child. It is important to prepare for both your individual interview and your group interview with the social study evaluator. These interviews are your opportunity to allow the social study evaluator to observe your parenting abilities and skills first hand. Therefore, although this process may seem a bit unnatural, it is important that you engage with your children during these interviews as you do on a daily basis. Generally, the group interview, if not all of the interviews, will take place during the home visit portion of the social study process.

The “Home Visit”:

The Texas Family Code requires that the social study evaluator conduct an evaluation of the home environment of each party in a custody dispute, unless the court order states that the home environment is not an issue being disputed. I will refer to this portion of the social study process as the “home visit.”

The social study evaluator will let you know the date and time that the home visit will occur. Make sure that you have an activity planned during this time, so that that social study evaluator has the opportunity to observe you interacting with your children. If the home visit is to occur during breakfast or lunch, then go ahead and proceed with your normal breakfast/lunch routine with your children. If the home visit is scheduled to occur during mid-morning or early afternoon, then consider playing a board game or doing homework with your children during this time. Do not just sit on the couch with your children staring at the social study evaluator. Keep in mind this will likely be your only opportunity for the social study evaluator to personally observe you with your children.

Finally, the social study evaluator must also conduct a personal interview of any and all persons that reside in the residence the subject of the social study. Therefore, if you have a roommate or relative residing with you, then they will also undergo a personal interview with the social study evaluator during this process.

 

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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.