If you find yourself in the middle of a hotly contested child custody matter, you may be wondering if a custody expert is right for your case. High-conflict cases often require CFIs or PREs. These experts can perform specialized investigations which attorneys, parties, and even judges cannot do themselves. However, there are several different types of custody experts. The most commonly used experts are the Child and Family Investigators (“CFI”) and the Parental Responsibility Evaluator (“PRE”). The custody expert you’ll want for your case will depend on the unique facts of your case.
A Child and Family Investigator is perhaps the most common type of child custody expert. Widely used in both custody and divorce matters, a CFI is appointed to investigate and make recommendations as to the children’s best interests. A CFI will make recommendations for both parenting time and decision-making. A typical investigation involves:
However, a CFI is free to perform the investigation as he or she sees fit. A CFI may use all or only some of the investigative steps listed above. An important limitation of a CFI is that they cannot conduct psychological testing. A CFI investigation typically takes about 60-90 days before a CFI Report is issued. That report will detail their investigation and ultimately their recommendations as to parenting time and decision-making. CFIs are widely used in initial divorce and custody matters, relocation cases, and modification cases. The cost of a CFI’s investigation generally cannot exceed $2,750 (as of 2019).
A CFI plays a serious role in a divorce or custody case once called upon for assistance. Their job is not to be taken lightly. For this reason, Colorado CFI’s are required to complete an affidavit for eligibility, pass a background check, and complete the mandatory training. Qualified individuals are listed on the Colorado Judicial Branch page along with their respective counties.
California refers to CFIs as Child Custody Investigators, which provide the same services. The state court’s judicial branch has additional information listed on their court website with a list of required training and experience. In California, court-connected child custody investigators require:
A Parental Responsibility Evaluator is another type of child custody expert. A PRE is a mental health professional who focuses on determining appropriate parenting time and/or decision-making in matters. These matters may involve unique concerns, such as substance abuse issues, mental health concerns, or sexual misconduct. A PRE may perform psychological testing and typically issues a more detailed report than a CFI.
In addition to psychological testing, a PRE will also utilize many of the same investigative steps as a CFI – data questionnaires, office and/or home visits, interviews with the children and third parties, etc. The costs of a PRE will typically exceed that of a CFI. Many retainers exceed $5,000.
PRE Evaluation Determines:
A re-evaluation is an option if either party is dissatisfied with the results. The parent requesting this re-evaluation will be responsible for the cost. Re-evaluation may be refused if:
Though these two custody experts play slightly different roles, their end goal is always the same: recommend a parenting plan that is in your child’s best interests. Deciding which custody expert is right for you is an important step in a contested custody matter. If you find yourself in this situation, it is best to begin working with an attorney. Call our family law attorneys at Modern Family Law for your free and confidential consultation today.
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