When a supreme court, family court, or surrogate court judge is required to render a decision on adoption, custody, visitation or guardianship, the judge may order the Probation Department to conduct an investigation. Probation submits a report to the court with background information and recommendations for a disposition in the best interest of a child or a dependent adult.

The probation investigative and reporting processes rely upon objective factors including determination as to which petitioner or plaintiff/defendant has assumed the role, historically, of primary caretaker. The investigation process includes interviews of the parties, a review of all relevant records. If a home visits are ordered by the court, the Probation Officer will visit the residences to report on suitability and safety factors.