Child Custody Frequently Asked Questions: Child Custody Experts



  1. What’s a Child and Family Investigator?

    A Child and Family Investigator (CFI) is a neutral third person appointed, pursuant to statutory section C.R.S. 14-10-116.5, to investigate aspects of a custody case, or the child aspects of a Denver divorce case, and to make recommendations to the court. CFI’s can be appointed at the request of either party or by the court, should it believe a CFI is needed. Most CFI’s are either mental health professionals or attorneys. All should have special training regarding the investigation of a custody case and are bound by various rules. A CFI can investigate any, or all, aspects of a custody case, including residential custody, visitation, and legal decision-making (parental responsibility). After an investigation, which generally takes two to three months, the CFI will issue a written report. The CFI process and final report can be the greatest factor in the outcome of any custody case. Our Denver child custody lawyers generally say that a court is “90+ percent” likely to follow the recommendations contained in the CFI report. As such, our attorneys strive to make sure each client in a case involving a CFI, whether an initial case or a custody modification, is fully informed regarding the process and the right things to say and do when dealing with the CFI. Cases can be won or lost based on the impression a party makes on the CFI. The process will include the CFI meeting not only with the parents, but also talking to the children.

    Prior to April 2011, most CFI’s required between $2,000 to $4,000 to start a case. The court ultimately has the decision as to how fees will be paid, and sometimes orders the initial cost split proportionate to the parties’ incomes or just one party to pay. The court can also appoint CFI’s for indigent people at the expense of the state. Beginning April 2011, the Colorado judiciary set forth new guidelines for CFI’s including a $2,000 cap on their overall fees, barring extreme circumstances, and the removal of their quasi-judicial immunity. As a result, a huge portion of the experienced and known CFI’s quit taking CFI appointments, instead choosing to do more comprehensive, and more expensive, parental responsibilities evaluations pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-127. We can help you understand all aspects of your custody case and assess whether you need a CFI.

  2. I disagree with the Child and Family Investigator’s recommendations. What are my options?

    A Child and Family Investigator (CFI) is a neutral third person appointed to a divorce or custody case to make recommendations to the court regarding visitation, residential custody, and decision-making (legal custody). In essence, a CFI is a court appointed expert. In most instances, it is our belief that courts are generally 90+ percent likely to follow a CFI’s recommendations, absent gross ineptitude or misconduct. In any case, it is likely that one side or the other will be unhappy with the CFI’s findings. For that parent, there are generally three options. One can certainly negotiate settlement more or less based on the CFI’s report, knowing that the other party may not want to take the risk or spend the funds required to go to a contested hearing in front of the judge. The second option is to seek a second opinion, or evaluation, from an alternate expert. Specifically, one can seek a parental responsibilities evaluation, formerly known as a “custody evaluation,” pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-127. Unless a court determines that a request for a PRE is sought solely for purposes of delay, the court must grant the request for an evaluation. A 14-10-127 evaluation is going to be more in-depth than the CFI investigation, but also much more costly.

    Not all people in a Denver area custody battle can afford the roughly $5,000 required to start a PRE. The PRE will certainly provide a potential counter expert opinion to the CFI. Conversely, the evaluator may come up with similar conclusions as the CFI. If one is not able to afford a PRE and not inclined to settle, the third option is to proceed to hearing, with the hope of challenging the conclusions of the CFI. This is certainly the least optimal approach, but often a reality in these economic times. One should remember that there is an entitlement to get the CFI’s file, which can certainly aid in court preparation.
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