October 15, 2017

What does a child custody expert determine?

In certain child custody cases, an expert may be needed to help determine and make recommendations to the court about parenting time and decision making. I believe that an appointment of a child custody expert can be helpful to both parties and helpful to the Court in making a final decision. In this article, I want to discuss the roles and responsibilities of child custody experts in Colorado; specifically, Child Family Investigator, Parental Responsibilities Evaluator and Child Legal Representative.

Child Family Investigator

In the State of Colorado, a Child Family Investigator (CFI) can be appointed by the Court or by motion of either of the parties in a child custody case. Generally, in my experience, a CFI is usually an attorney or mental health professional.

The Court provides an order of appointment that lays out the rules and guidelines for the CFI during their assignment. Some of the duties of the CFI are:

  1. To follow the order of the Court;
  2. To investigate as directed by the Court;
  3. To use the best interests of the child factors;
  4. Maintain confidentiality; and
  5. File a written report and testify as a witness if needed.

Currently, the cost for a private pay CFI for the investigation and report is capped at $2,750.

Parental Responsibilities Evaluator

At times, parties need more than a CFI and the Court or parties will request appointment of a Parental Responsibilities Evaluator (PRE). The PRE is usually a qualified licensed mental health professional, but can also be a county or district social services department. The PRE will perform an evaluation and file a written report about any contested areas related to child custody and visitation (allocation of parental responsibilities) for the children. Similar to a CFI, a PRE can testify as a witness at a Court hearing. I view the PRE as a heightened CFI.

The Court must find that the mental health professional appointed as a PRE is qualified and properly trained. The PRE should have training and experience in the following areas:

  1. The effects of divorce and remarriage on children, adults and families;
  2. Parenting techniques;
  3. Child development to include personality, emotional, cognitive, and psychological development;
  4. Clinical assessment techniques; and
  5. Child and adult psychopathology.

Generally, in El Paso County, the costs for appointment of a PRE range around $3,500 to $7,500. I have seen costs exceed this amount based on the case issues and complexities in the case. However, there is not a cap on the costs for the PRE like there is for a CFI.

Child Legal Representative

A Child Legal Representative (CLR) may be appointed by the Court or by motion of the parties to assist the Court. The CLR must be an lawyer in good standing. The CLR shall represent the best interest of the child and not solely the wishes of the child. The wishes of the child are only one of the factors in the best interest of the child factors under C.R.S. 14-10-124.

The CLR determines and makes recommendations about child custody, allocation of parental responsibilities, support for the child, parenting time, visitation, etc.

A CLR and CFI cannot be the same person in a case. Unlike the CFI and PRE, a CLR cannot be called as a witness in a case. The CLR will be an active participant in all aspects of the case once they are appointed.

Determining if you need a child custody expert is a big decision. As a Colorado Springs Family Law Lawyer, I recommend you speak with your attorney and discuss which child custody expert is right for your case. One thing to remember is that just because you request and pay for an expert, you may not get the results or recommendation you are looking for.

If you have questions about child custody experts contact the lawyers at Springs Law Group. Springs Law Group offers a free consultation for your Family Law and Personal Injury matters.

Christopher Nicolaysen is a Family law Attorney who practices in Colorado Springs, CO. He graduated from Denver Sturm College of Law, and has been practicing law for several years now. Christopher Nicolaysen is passionate about helping you solve your family matters. Learn more about his experience here.

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