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socrateaser
socrateaser, Lawyer
Category: Family Law
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Experience:  Retired (mostly)
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Is there a time limit on how long a social investigation report

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Is there a time limit on how long a social investigation report for time share is valid? Is a report that was created three years ago still admissible as evidence in custody hearing?" If there is not a Florida Statute referencing the time frame of a social investigation evaluation, I am interested in finding out an case law that may pertain to subject.
Fla. Stat. 61.20 is the authorizing law for a social investigation report. There is no express limit on the time during which the report remains valid. In fact, the last sentence in subd. (1) provides, "The court may consider the information contained in the study in making a decision on the parenting plan, and the technical rules of evidence do not exclude the study from consideration."

Under the ordinary rules of evidence, "Evidence can be either remote in time or remote in the sense of being too attenuated, i.e., not relevant." Donahue v. Albertson's Inc., 472 So.2d 482 (1985). Also, "The general rule that remoteness in point of time goes to weight rather than admissibility of the evidence applies except when the time is so far removed as to deprive the circumstances of any evidentiary value."Gallagher v. L.K. Restaurant & Motels, Inc., 481 So.2d 562 (1986).

Frankly, I doubt that the Florida Legislature was thinking about abandoning all of the rules of evidence by supplying the statement re "technical rules of evidence," and social investigation reports. The statement was probably intended to permit admission of a report which would ordinarily be inadmissible upon timely objection as hearsay.

Unfortunately, there is no case law directly interpreting this inconsistency. If I were the judge, I would probably admit the report, but I would also state on the record that the remoteness of the report may cause me to accord it little weight in the current action.

But, I'm not the judge, so who knows how your judge will use the report. I wish I could be more definitive here -- but, it's a very difficult question, you've posed.

Hope this helps.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Do you believe that I could use the cases you supplied to either file a Motion to Vacate the order or have good chance at getting an appeal?


 


The trial was before a General Magistrate and she has issued a report and recommendation, however no order by the Judge has been filed yet. It is past the ten days for exceptions.


 


One of the big deals about this social investigation is that it references a time schedule that was only relevant three years ago when we both lived in the same city. We currently live 500 miles apart but the parenting plan that was created and put into the report and recommendation has us living within the same city, actually specifying the county school system to use. Neither one of us live in that county now. The visitation schedule is not possible now, but will be put into the order and I need to find a way to stop it.


 


 

Do you believe that I could use the cases you supplied to either file a Motion to Vacate the order or have good chance at getting an appeal?

 

A: Motion to vacate, probably not. Judge is not going to accept education on evidence law from a layperson (ego will not permit a change in ruling, in my view). Appeal, on the other hand, may be very viable, given that there is no existing case law interpreting the scope of the statutory language.

 

Hope this helps.


The trial was before a General Magistrate and she has issued a report and recommendation, however no order by the Judge has been filed yet. It is past the ten days for exceptions.

 

A: I I should have read this question first. Were you able to file exceptions, I think that judge may have taken my argument seriously. But, by not taking exception, the judge is free to rubber stamp the GM's recommendations, and I suspect that is what will happen. Which leaves you with an appeal, as the only legal option.

 

Motion to vacate requires fraud or substantive mistake. Failure to take exception will not suffice.

 

One of the big deals about this social investigation is that it references a time schedule that was only relevant three years ago when we both lived in the same city. We currently live 500 miles apart but the parenting plan that was created and put into the report and recommendation has us living within the same city, actually specifying the county school system to use. Neither one of us live in that county now. The visitation schedule is not possible now, but will be put into the order and I need to find a way to stop it.

A: I agree that the report seems ridiculously remote, and that case law suggests it should not have been given much weight, if any. But, what's done is done. You can certainly try a motion to vacate, but I think you're probably looking at an appeal at this point.

Hope this helps.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thanks for your answers. I have one more question, I am assuming that I would have another option, and that being to file another petition for modification once the order has been filed. Referencing the fact that there has been a significant change in circumstances since the order was filed, referencing the new addresses and distance for visitation. Would that be correct?

If those facts were not raised by either party in the current action, then due process would permit you to bring a new petition to modify.

Hope this helps.
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