In Colorado’s family law or domestic relation legal cases, Child and Family Investigators (CFIs) and Parental Responsibility Evaluators (PREs) often play crucial roles in assisting courts on making informed decisions regarding matters related to a child’s upbringing, such as decision-making, custody, parenting time, parental responsibilities, therapeutic support, etc.
The roles of both CFIs and PREs contribute to the best interests of children involved in divorce or custody disputes, however, there are differences between the two professional roles in terms of their functions, investigations, authority, qualifications, responsibilities, limitations, and the processes they follow.
While CFIs make recommendations and PREs provide comprehensive reports and evaluations to the Court, the ultimate decision-making authority rests with the Magistrate/Judge at their discretion to accept or modify the recommendations provided.
Child and Family Investigators (CFIs):
Colorado Courts may involve Child & Family Investigators (CFIs) in legal cases involving parental responsibilities, to include parenting time and decision-making. CFIs are appointed by the Court by an Order that specifies their duties, role, and scope of the appointment. CFIs serve as a neutral third-party professional to investigate the family dynamics, evaluate issues, and provide a recommendation relating to the best interests of the child(ren).
CFIs are often qualified professionals such as mental health therapists, family law attorneys, or social workers with expertise and training in child development, family conflict, relevant law, domestic violence, alienation, and familial dynamics. The main objective of a Child & Family Investigator is to conduct a comprehensive assessment and then make written recommendations to promote the child’s welfare.
A CFI’s thorough investigation often includes interviews with the parties, child, and collateral contacts such as teachers, therapists, doctors, friends, other family members; the collection of evidence; the review of relevant documentation or records; and home visits. CFI’s often observe interactions between the children and their parents or relevant case parties; assess the children’s living conditions; review other factors that affect the children’s well-being; and evaluate the children’s needs, desires, or expressed preferences.
The Court will typically consider the CFI’s recommendations when making rulings associated with parenting time, decision-making authority, and other relevant matters.
At the time of this writing, a retainer for a CFI is generally $2,750 with an hourly billing rate of $125 – $180 per hour. Often times, each party is required to split the cost of the CFI retainer equally. Parties who are low income may fill out and file with the Court an Application for a State Paid Professional to see if they qualify as indigent to have a portion of the CFI retainer covered by State Pay.
Parental Responsibility Evaluators (PREs):
Alternatively, Colorado Court may instead involve Parental Responsibility Evaluators (PREs) in legal cases involving child related matters. PREs are also court-appointed professionals who serve as a neutral third party, but their role is distinct from CFIs. PREs are often mental health professionals with extensive education and experience in forensic evaluations, abuse, trauma, diagnoses, etc. related to child custody and parental responsibilities. They undergo specialized training in conducting comprehensive assessments and applying psychological and clinical knowledge to the evaluation process.
PREs are responsible for conducting in-depth evaluations of the parties involved, including parents, children, and any other individuals deemed relevant to the case. They assess various factors, such as the mental health of parents/children, parenting abilities, history of domestic violence/trauma, substance abuse issues, and other crucial aspects that may impact the child’s best interests. PREs provide the court with a comprehensive report that includes their findings, observations, and recommendations.
Similarly to CFIs, the appointed PRE will also conduct interviews, reach out to collateral contacts, collect evidence, review documents, participate in home visits, observe interactions, etc. The Court will consider the PRE’s recommendations when making rulings associated with parenting time, decision-making, parenting classes, reintegration plans, and other relevant matters.
At the time of this writing, a retainer for a PRE is typically higher than that of a CFI due to the PRE’s enhanced education, training, and experience. A PRE retainer can range anywhere from $5,000 to $9,000 with an hourly billing rate of $200 – $400 per hour. Often times, each party is required to split the cost of the PRE retainer equally.
Main Differences Between CFIs and PREs:
- Scope of Investigations: CFIs focus primarily on investigating specific issues and making recommendations to the Court, while PREs conduct comprehensive evaluations encompassing a broader range of factors and issues.
- Qualifications and Expertise: CFIs may have backgrounds in mental health, law, or social work, whereas PREs are specifically trained mental health professionals with expertise in forensic evaluations and psychological assessments.
- Investigation Timeframe: CFIs are often appointed for shorter-term investigations and assessments, which may be completed within a few months. PRE evaluations, on the other hand, tend to be more extensive and time-consuming, potentially taking several months to complete.
A Comparative Analysis:
Child and Family Investigators (CFIs) and Parental Responsibility Evaluators (PREs) serve vital roles in Colorado family law cases, assisting courts in determining child custody, visitation, and parental responsibilities. While CFIs focus on conducting investigations and making recommendations based on the best interests of the child, PREs conduct comprehensive evaluations encompassing various psychological and clinical aspects. Understanding the distinctions between CFIs and PREs is crucial for parties involved so that they can make informed decisions for the well-being of their families.
The Law Offices of Clifton Black: Helping You Navigate the Complexities of Child Custody and Parental Responsibilities
As a family law attorney, The Law Offices of Clifton Black specializes in assisting clients with matters related to Child and Family Investigators (CFIs) and Parental Responsibility Evaluators (PREs). Our team understands the importance of these professionals in cases involving child custody, visitation rights, and parental responsibilities.
When it comes to CFIs, we can guide our clients through the process of appointing a qualified investigator to assess the child’s best interests. Similarly, we assist clients in cases involving PREs, who are tasked with conducting comprehensive evaluations of the parents’ abilities to fulfill their parental responsibilities.
The Law Offices of Clifton Black works closely with our clients to understand their unique circumstances and legal objectives. We provide knowledgeable advice, ensuring our clients are well-informed about the roles of CFIs and PREs, their rights, and the potential outcomes. Our experienced team diligently advocate for our clients’ best interests, helping them navigate the complexities of child custody and parental responsibilities. Call us today at (719) 328-1616.