A Child and Family Investigators, or CFI, is an expert appointed by a court to help a judge resolve parenting time and decision-making conflicts. Not every case involving children requires a CFI. CFIs are usually only appointed to cases where one, or both parties request this expert. A judge may also determine on his or her own that a CFI is necessary.
A Child and Family Investigators may be a lawyer, a therapist, a mental health profession or another person with extensive experience helping children and families. They usually, but not always, have experience in a courtroom.
Generally, lawyers try and work together to pick the CFI. When they agree, they’ll submit a joint request to the judge for that person’s appointment. Where they don’t, they submit names for the judge to pick from. Good lawyers try and pick a CFI whose experience and expertise best align with the facts of the case. For example, some CFI’s have more experience with parenting time schedules for infants, or very young children. Others might have experience in long-distance situations, where the parents live far apart.
Payment for the services of the Child and Family Investigators comes from one or both of the parties. Courts may order the parties to share the expense equally, but not always. The financial circumstances of the parties often come into play in allocating this cost. CFI expenses are capped at $2,000, unless agreed by the parties, or ordered by the judge.
A CFI will conduct an investigation of relevant information about the children and the families involved. This often includes meeting with each parent, the children, and others directly involved in the day-to-day lives of the children. The identity and number of people interviewed are at the discretion of the CFI unless ordered by the judge. Parties do not get to dictate how the CFI conducts his or her investigation.
At the conclusion of the investigation, which may take several months, the Child and Family Investigators prepare a written report for the court containing the specifics of their investigation, a listing of the statutory factors considered, and their recommendations for parenting time and decision-making. Each CFI does their report, and investigations, differently and customizes them to the facts of each case, so it’s difficult to predict the type of information a report might contain. Both parties get copies of the CFI’s report.
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