Child Custody Evaluations

(formerly known as "Social Study Evaluations")

"Child custody evaluation is a process through which recommendations for the custody of, parenting of, and access to children can be made to the court in those cases in which the parents are unable to work out their own parenting plans."

From "Model Standards of Practice" of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (1994). The most current version of the AFCC model standards can be found here.

General Overview

When conducting a custody evaluation the goal is to assess the ways in which each parent contributes to the physical, emotional and social development of the children in question. The role of any professional conducting a child custody evaluation involves neutrality and transparency. Evaluators should always strive to serve impartially, never as an advocate for one parent or the other. In the end the goal is to make recommendations to the court as to how both parents can best meet the needs and interests of the children involved.


Child custody evaluations are done by court appointment only. This generally means that both of the parties and/or attorneys agree to the appointment before submitting an order to the court (and then sending the order on to our office). Whether the evaluation is conducted by Dr. Robb personally or one of our staff members we will need that person to be individually named in the appointment order. Please see our Sample Order for examples. If you have a specific deadline for the evaluation, please contact us in advance of completing any court order so that we may confirm which evaluators are able to for that completion date.

What is the difference between a social study and a child custody evaluation anyway?

A: Nothing. "Social study" is an archaic term for a child custody evaluation. Texas has finally updated its statutory language to match national practice.

Adoption Evaluations

Many stepparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and others choose to adopt children whose lives they are already involved with. Although many courts and evaluators recognize that for most stepparent or relative adoptions the legal process cements an already existing relationship, the State of Texas still requires that an adoption evaluation be filed in most cases. While adoption of unrelated children (outside of a traditional adoption agency process) is somewhat less common, it is still fairly regularly seen in the local courts. Unrelated adoptions are more complex, both in terms of paperwork and interviewing, and often involve multiple visits and reports to the court. One of the happier areas of family law, we handle both relative and non-relative adoption evaluations at a substantially discounted rate.


Pre-placement portions of adoption evaluations can be intitiated via a written request. Post-placement portions of adoption evaluations, and combined pre- and post-placement evaluations (initiated after a child is already residing in the home, such as in stepparent adoptions), are done by court appointment only.

"Home Studies"

We receive a number of requests for "home studies" every year. Although not a well-defined term, in general this has meant an examination of the basic physical environment of one parent. Some jurisdictions, especially those outside of Texas, may use the phrase "home study" very differently from one another, so it is important to have clarity in these cases as to what type of service the court is requesting. We are available to perform basic review of a parent's physical home environment (generally in the context of arranging for that parent to spend time with their children in their home), as well as more extensive background checking and interviewing as well. Please make sure to clarify what your case specific needs are with us prior to beginning the "home study."


Depending on the specifics of the case a "home study" may be done at the request of an individual attorney or by court appointment. In the case of a court appointment the order should spell out, in detail, any special requests or issues that the court wishes examined. Orders without specific instructions will be responded to as a request for a minimal physical environment assessment.