A Child and Family Investigator May Improve Your Case’s Outcome

Christopher Sutton
By: Christopher Sutton
PublishedFeb 16, 2022
3 minute read

Depending on the nature of your case, your family law attorney may recommend hiring a parenting expert, like a Child and Family Investigator, to evaluate the circumstances of your family law matter with children. In this video, Robinson & Henry Partners and Family Law Attorneys Allison Sutton and Chris Sutton discuss two types of parenting experts that could benefit your case and ultimately protect the best interests of your children.

Find Out if You Need a Child and Family Investigator

High-conflict family law cases or matters where some type of abuse is suspected, a parenting expert, like a Child and Family Investigator, is hired to provide expert insight into the situation.  Call 303-688-0944 to set up a case assessment for your family law matter.

The Child and Family Investigator

What is a Child and Family Investigator?

A Child and Family Investigator, or CFI as they’re commonly called, are professionals who often practice law or serve in the mental health field. A Child and Family Investigator acts as an investigative arm of the court.

What Does a Child and Family Investigator Do?

A CFI’s job is to evaluate the family’s situation and provide a recommendation to the court based on his or her observations and interviews.

The Child and Family Investigator will visit each party’s home to observe how the children and parents interact with each other. She or he will conduct interviews with each parent and all the children involved in the matter. If necessary, the Child and Family Investigator may speak with the children’s teachers and, really, anyone who is significantly involved in the children’s lives.

What Happens After the Investigation?

Once the investigation is complete, the CFI will make a variety of recommendations to the court. The Child and Family Investigator may recommend that there is a need for a mental health follow-up with one or all of the parties to the case.

The court may also call on the Child and Family Investigator to be a witness to help a party establish what they feel is in the child’s best interests.

The Parental Responsibilities Evaluator

What is a Parental Responsibilities Evaluator?

The second parenting expert is a Parental Responsibilities Evaluator or PRE. The primary difference between a PRE and a CFI is that you must be a mental health provider in order to work as a Parental Responsibilities Evaluator.

What Does a Parental Responsibilities Evaluator Do?

A PRE has a similar role as a CFI, except this expert will conduct some mental health testing of one or both of the parties as part of his or her evaluation of the case. CFIs do not perform mental health testing.

The Parental Responsibilities Evaluator can be very valuable if there are significant concerns about a parent’s mental health, perhaps an undiagnosed mental illness that needs to be addressed.

How a PRE Assessment is Different

We noted that PREs act similarly to the CFI, but one of the major differences is the psychological testing. A Parental Responsibilities Evaluator uses a standardized test to conduct mental health assessments. So the PRE does not provide their opinion; they provide the outcome of the testing. Statistical information that follows the testing results is not always particularly helpful.

The Cost Difference 

Child and Family Investigators are Cheaper

A Child and Family Investigator is more economical than a PRE for several reasons. The state of Colorado limits how much a CFI can charge you. A Parental Responsibilities Evaluator can charge you as much as he or she desires.

In 2022, the cost of a Child and Family Investigator is $2,750.

The state has not placed a cap on PRE fees, and our attorneys have seen PREs price tags from $5,000 to $40,000. That is extremely cost-prohibitive for most clients. The mental health evaluation is one reason PREs cost more.

Do You Get a CFI or a PRE?

Generally speaking, our attorneys suggest a CFI for the sheer fact that they’re less expensive. CFIs provide great insight into a case and his or her evaluation may be all you need. However, if your attorney feels a PRE is warranted in your case they will certainly make that recommendation.

Find Out if Your Case Needs a Parenting Expert

High-conflict family law cases often need an outside professional to provide an unbiased recommendation for the court that keeps your child’s best interests in mind. Our Family Law Team will evaluate your case and make suggestions based on the facts of your case. Call 303-688-0944 to get started with your case assessment.

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