The Purpose of a Home Study in a Custody Dispute
When you’re fighting for custody with the other parent of your child, you will be introduced to many new terms and pieces of the legal process. One of these is called a “home study.” Often in a custody case, you’ll be asked by your lawyer to obtain a home study, and sometimes you’ll be ordered to obtain one by the court. So, what is a home study?
A home study is provided by an expert who is paid by either one or both parties in the case. The expert will come in and look at the home that the children would be living in. He or she will then provide a report to the court about the home’s suitability. The expert might walk through the house and will want to look at safety features to ensure that your children will be safe there. The expert considers such factors as:
- the age of your children,
- any special needs they have,
- the supervision or care necessary to maintain safety in the home,
- and who else is living in the home. This can include the parent’s new spouse or live-in significant other, and any of their kids who may be living there.
The home study enables the hearing master or judge in a custody case to assess several of the factors that go into a custody award. Most notably, a home study will identify whether the parents involved are able to suitably keep the number of children involved. If there are five kids and one parent is living in a small apartment, this might preclude overnight visits for a while. Alternatively, if the home is not yet finished or is being renovated, this can also impact a home study finding.
Home studies are often requested from the Court by one side of a custody dispute when that parent believes the other parent’s home is unsuitable. This can be done out of jealousy in some cases, which is unfortunate. But in many cases, asking for a home study is the only way to verify what your co-parent’s claims are about their new house or apartment.
A home study plan is only one of many tools that are in the custody lawyer’s playbook. Furthermore, a home study plan isn’t necessary in all cases. The most important part of a custody dispute is getting it resolved in a way that is in the best interests of the children involved. This means that attorneys will sometimes find ways to come to agreements without having the parties spend even more money on expert witnesses to prepare things like home study plans.
If you have questions about home study plans or about the custody process in general, call Cornerstone Law Firm and speak to one of our family law attorneys. Our attorneys are empathetic and caring. We can help you walk through this difficult time for your family and obtain an outcome that is right for you and your children.