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Child & Family Investigator (CFI) in Colorado


Summary:  You can hire, or the court may appoint on its own, a third party professional to evaluate co-parenting issues. Usually both parties will share in the cost of such an evaluation. However, you are better if you can resolve your disputed issues.  Rarely will they be helpful.


If you cannot make your own agreement as to the allocation of parenting time and decision-making, the court will likely appoint an independent professional to investigate and make a recommendation directly to the court. Generally both parties must share in the cost of that professional evaluation. The judge will decide how the parties will share the cost.

The Need for Dispute Resolution with Parenting Decisions

Since the amount of child support payments depends heavily on the amount of the parenting time for minor children that each parent has, often there is a dispute over parenting time. In other words, often a dispute over parenting time is really a dispute over the amount of monthly child support to be paid. Even though our laws provide that parenting time should be decided independently of the amount of child support. Also, often these disputes are just a part of the adversarial problems between the parents.

However, sometimes parenting time disputes include: (1) the fitness of a parent to have parenting time; (2) the amount of parenting time; and (3) a parenting time schedule.

If the parents cannot resolve the issue of parenting time, then the issue has to be decided by the trial judge or by a court-appointed professional. Since judges no longer have the time to investigate and resolve parenting disputes, they most often appoint an outside professional to investigate and make parenting decisions. Or the husband and wife can request an appointment.

The appointee could be another lawyer or a mental health professional.

There is now 1 level of "investigator" and 3 levels of intervention.

The Child and Family Investigator (now called CFI, formerly called Special Advocate)

The new Child and Family Investigator ("CFI") was formerly known as the Special Advocate. The purpose of this court-appointed individual is to investigate the parenting roles and make recommendations based on the best-interests of the children.

Often this is done through a series of interviews and other methods of investigating relevant capabilities and records of the parents and the children.

The CFI then will file a written report with the Judge on issues that may affect the best interests of the minor children. CRS §14-10-116.5. The focus is on the best interests of the child.

In many cases, the judge will follow the recommendation of the CFI. But does not have to.

The CFI does not make any decisions and generally makes recommendations to the judge regarding the formation of a parenting plan.

The fees of the CFI are split between the parents, per an order of the court. The court does not pay them. The typical fee range is $1,500 to $5,000. Some are less and some are more.

Under CRS §14-10-127, either party may file a motion for an evaluation of the allocation of parental responsibilities. Or, after an initial evaluation, either party may request a supplemental evaluation. The court should order the supplemental evaluation unless it finds that it does not serve the best interests of the child. Generally the moving party must initially pay the cost of the evaluation.

However, generally once an investigation and report has been done by a CFI, you do not have a right to a supplemental CFI. But you may have a right to an evaluation. (Note that the role of a CFI and an evaluator can be different, and the authorizing statutes are different).

The Role of the Parenting Coordinator

The parenting coordinator is the first level of supervised intervention. It is a role of assistance, rather than a decision-maker.

The parenting coordinator is a neutral 3rd party who will help the husband and wife implement an existing parenting plan. To assist with the making of day-to-day decisions and the development of parenting skills.

The fees are split between the husband and wife, per court order. The court does not pay for this service.

The Domestic Relations Decision-Maker

Where some high-conflict cases require more court intervention and supervision, the next level of supervision is the decision-maker.

The decision-maker has the authority to resolve disputes and make decisions and orders regarding the parenting roles. These decisions may address: (a) parenting time disputes; (b) child support; and (c) specific parenting decisions.

However, the decision-maker's responsibility is limited to the implementations of existing parenting plans. The decision-maker cannot devise parenting plans or make changes to them.

The parents must agree in writing as to the scope of the decision-maker's role and authority.

The decision-maker can be the same person as the parenting coordinator.

The Arbitrator of Child-Related Issues

The highest level of intervention is the arbitrator. Here, more power is given to the 3rd party because that person has the power of modify the rights and responsibilities of the parents as to parenting time and decision-making.

However, this role is also limited by written agreement as to the arbitrator's authority and limitations.

The parents do have the right to a court hearing to review the arbitrator's decisions. However, if the court upholds those decisions, then the parent who requested the hearing must pay the fees and costs of the other party as well as the fees and costs of the arbitrator.

Recommendation Regarding the Use of a 3rd Party Professional

Most disputes over parenting time are not disputes over parenting skills, capabilities, or the best interests of the children.

Instead, the disputes more often are over the amount of child support to be paid or are just a part of the over all dispute between the parents. In many cases, parenting issues are just another avenue of dispute.

Fees for the use of 3rd party professionals may run in the range of $1,500 to $5,000. Sometimes they can be higher, depending on the complexity and the level of acrimony between the parents.

One of the costs often not considered is the bias or mistake on the part of the 3rd party professional. Attorneys are frequently requesting hearings to disqualify appointed professionals, when the recommendations and decisions made are not attractive to the client.

In the long run, both parents and all of the children are best served if the disputes are resolved without the intervention of outsiders. The character of each parent will eventually be understood by the children and be recognized for what it is. The children will figure it out.

Accordingly, everyone is better off if the family resolves their own parenting time issues. Unless one of the parents is truly unfit to provide reasonable parenting time, it is often better to compromise rather than continue to have a dispute.

In most cases, a status conference or short telephone conference with the judge can be used to help mediate parenting time, particularly if one of the parents is way off base as to his or her legal rights.

Save your money and wear and tear if you can. Start with a mediator if you need help.

GIF The material on this web site is for informational purposes only. This law firm practices only in Colorado. An attorney-client relationship is established only when an agreement as to the scope of representation and fees has been signed and a retainer paid. Colorado law may consider these web site materials to be attorney advertising. GIF
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