Friends, I get letters and eMails every day asking questions about their specific court cases. I will try to find the best ones and sharing my answers weekly. Below is an eMail from a step-Dad asking, “What to Expect After a Social Study” regarding his wife’s child custody process.

What to Expect After a Social Study – Question from a Step-Father

“Hello, my wife is going through a modification with her child’s dad. He just got out of jail rehab, since he failed his probation drug test. They gave us primary custody in the temporary orders; standard visitations 12-5 Saturday and Sunday with no sleep overs for him.

They gave him the benefit of the doubt for him to spend time with his child. But his dad picks her up; which is her grandpa. The father hasn’t been spending time with her, he’s back at his old ways. He sees her for 1 hour and takes off, his father, “grandpa,” stays with her. But we have a hard time with grandpa, he tells my wife how to raise her and says their his visitation “the grandpa”. The court is asking for a social study and physiological evaluation for her, because judge says she didn’t answer his questions like a normal 13 year old.

My question is should we hurry the evaluation and social study, since he’s not spending time with her? I don’t see why she going then? Mind you he owes $36,000 on back pay child support. We seek your advise on what to expect! Thank you…

Sharing What to Expect After a Social Study – Some Answers


Welcome to the wonderful world of the court system. While I am not an attorney, and I always recommend you seek the advice of a local attorney that knows your case and court, I’ll do my best to explain what you might expect.

In Texas there are normally three stages of a custody hearing: a Temporary hearing, a Social Study, and a Final hearing.

Sounds like you are halfway there.

So here is what is in store for ya’ll and probably what will happen moving forward.

  1. The Social Study, which can take anywhere from a few months to a year, will visit your home and the home of Dad. Maybe, if you are lucky, they will interview your favorite grandfather.
  2. The social workers conducting the social study will determine primary residence, recommend to the judge what form of custody should be issued, how Dad is doing on drug recovery and to make sure there is nobody really bad is harming your step-daughter. By the way, drugs and violence are considered fairly serious by caseworkers. So rest assure, right this second, I believe ya’ll will be granted primary custody in the final, and the caseworker will probably recommend sole custody for Mom (which is rare). So getting out of joint custody is doable. (FYI, joint custody is usually the default.)
  3. But before you cheer too loud, if Dad is showing signs of recovery, Dad will return to standard visitation probably within a year. They may stair step it (one overnight, then two, then a weekend, etc.). Or they may give him back standard and/or extended standard immediately (that’s realistically what will probably happen after the social study). So DON’T rush it. In regards to visitation, they won’t care he is $36k behind or pawns his daughter to Grandpa. For as long as Grandpa is not into drugs, a sex offender, or violence.

Hopefully this is all good news, and what you expect.

Here’s what’s probably NOT going to happen, if he is recovering well from his drug problem, he probably won’t get supervised visits nor will his time be shortened. Dealing with Grandpa or having him designate Grandpa is going to be considered “okay” by the courts. Now if the drug problem gets worse, or he starts offering drugs to your daughter—well then that’s a different story and all bets are off.

Keep in mind nowadays, grandparents can file for their own visitation rights. Grandparent rights tend to be granted more often, in my observation, when their children are not exercising their own rights or are in jail.

So where does that leave ya’ll?

If you want step-daughter’s Dad out of your life, (not recommended) my suggestion is to focus on the child support. I put my Ex in jail a few times due to child support and it was wonderful break. Finally she agreed to go away for two years and let me raise our daughter in exchange for forgiving 45k of back child support. No matter how violent, how crazy or how many terrible things she did, the courts never took away any of her visitation.

[tweet “Courts favor both parents having access to children, no matter how bad they are.”]

When my Ex did bad things and we wound up in court (such as beating up my wife once) the judge would say, “She’s a terrible person, but I don’t believe she’ll be terrible to your daughter.” Courts favor both parents having access to children, no matter how bad they are. Read that line again. It’s what you can expect. Now that my daughter is grown and I have my case behind me, I tend to agree with the court about keeping both parents involved in her life–but I understand how hard that concept is and situations can be difficult to work through.

It’s a tough road, but sounds like you’re making the best of it. Be the best parents you can be and learn to let go and not try to parent the other side. Focus on loving your step-daughter. Dad may be into drugs, but odds are he loves his daughter too. It’s tough, trust me I’ve been there, done that.


PS. Here is a good post to read… How to Prepare for a Court Appointed Social Study.

Parents, attorneys, what other advice would you give this Dad?

Feature paid image from Adobe Stock photos.