OCTOBER 25, 2018
When parents are unable to reach an agreement about parenting issues during or after a divorce or parenting case, the court will often appoint one or more evaluators to do an investigation and make recommendations to the court. In Colorado, one of those evaluators is called a child and family investigator (CFI).
A CFI can be an attorney, mental health professional, or other individual with appropriate training, qualifications, and independent perspectives acceptable to the court.
Each county maintains a list of CFIs who have been approved for appointment by the courts in that county.
The parties can request, or the court can appoint on its own authority, a CFI to serve a limited role in investigating specific issues defined in the court's order of appointment and making recommendations to the court. Even when the order defines the CFI role broadly to include all aspects of the allocation of parental responsibilities, the scope of the CFI investigation is limited by restrictions placed upon CFIs by rules governing the role. For example, the maximum amount a CFI can charge for the investigation is $2,750. In addition, the CFI is not permitted to conduct psychological testing of the parties, or substance abuse evaluations unless substance abuse is the sole issue for which the appointment of a CFI is made.
When only one party requests a CFI the court might or might not order the appointment; when both parties request a CFI, the court generally does appoint a CFI, but is not required to. If a CFI is appointed, the court will determine how the cost of the CFI will be split between the parties. Most often, but not always, the cost is split equally between the parties.
Once a CFI is appointed, the parties are required to cooperate with the CFI's investigation. Generally, this includes filling out a questionnaire, meeting with the CFI as requested, allowing the CFI to visit the home of each parent while the child(ren) are there, and signing releases for the CFI to talk to others (doctors, schools, therapists). Even though the CFI investigation can feel intrusive and one might feel defensive at times about what is being asked, it is important to be open and forthcoming with information requested, focusing on the positives and limiting criticism of the other parent.
Once the CFI has completed the investigation, s/he will write a report for the court and the parties outlining the information gathered, interpreting the results, and making recommendations regarding the specific issues the court order set forth. Because the CFI report presents unbiased information to the parties regarding the parents, the child(ren), and the family dynamics, it often helps the parents work out an agreement that settles the case out of court.
If the case does not settle and a court hearing is required, the CFI will often be a witness in court to be questioned about the investigation and recommendations. There is an additional $500 fee for the CFI to testify in court. The CFI report and testimony, if any, are tools for the court to use in crafting its final decision regarding parental responsibilities. The court might adopt the CFI report and recommendations in full as its order; parts of the recommendations; or none of the recommendations. Absent a settlement between the parents, the court always makes the final decision regarding parental responsibilities.
The attorneys at Foothills Family Law have helped clients interact with dozens of CFIs and can provide expert advice on how to approach a CFI investigation in your case.
© 2018, The Wollard Law Firm, PC dba Foothills Family Law