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A Discussion of Frequently Made Recommendations on Social Investigation Reports

The vast preponderance of literature on parenting plans indicate that the best interests of children are met by encouraging shared visitation and shared decision making by both parents. In the state of Florida, we are also moving quickly toward a model of the presumption of equal time sharing. Any deviation from equal time sharing would entail a significant and detailed documentation of circumstances that would mitigate against this recommendation, e.g. domestic violence, child abuse, drug and or alcohol abuse, etc.

Sole decision making is highly discouraged in the literature except in rare cases. I was recently involved in a case where a guardian recommended sole decision making responsibly to one of the parents because they could not agree. This is not a solution in the best interest of the child.

Reunification therapy is often recommended to the court by the social investigator. It should most often involve the entire family. When a child gets to the point where he/she doesn’t want to see a parent, he/she is either a subject of parent alienation behavior or is a victim of abuse or neglect. In the latter case, reunification must include the participation of the offending parent.

Another frequently made recommendation is for one or both parents to engage in individual therapy. This recommendation is overused particularly when there is no test data to support it. Similarly children do not usually require individual therapy. For children under age 13, parents should be involved to implement therapeutic intervention.

In addition, a guardian ad litem or parent coordinator is often recommended by the court. This, should be reserved for high conflict cases in which there is suspicion of abuse, neglect or parental alienation.

Finally, supervised visitation, is sometimes recommended to the court, it should occur only in the rare cases in which there is a clear and present danger to the health and/or safety of the child. Even when supervised visitation is employed, there should be a remedial plan in place to facilitate the rehabilitation of the supervised parent so that he/she may obtain unsupervised visits.

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