In cases where the parents cannot agree on the allocation of parental responsibilities (custody) whether the dispute is over parenting time, decision-making responsibility for the children or both, a party or the Court can request the Court to appoint a professional to investigate the case to help the court decide what orders to issue regarding custody. Some courts find a professional investigator to be very helpful as such an investigation avoids a great deal of "he said she said" at trial, which is not appreciated by the court.
There are two types of investigations that can be done. One is a very specified, issue limited investigation conducted by a person called a Child and Family Investigator (CFI). This person is usually a family therapist, psychologist or specialized family law attorney who will investigate the specific issues per the court appointment order and make a report to the court on their findings and give the court a recommendation of what the court should do for this family in regards to the specific investigation issues. A CFI is the less expensive investigation of the two options. By Court rule, generally, a CFI can charge no more than $2,000.00 for their services. Usually the fee for a CFI is split between the parties or can be paid by one party entirely. The CFI does not look at every issue of concern of the parents. Their investigations are limited to a few narrowly defined specific topics. It is wise to engage a competent family law attorney if a CFI is possibly going to be appointed in a divorce case or custody case. There is a defined process to pick a CFI for a case. An attorney is very useful in aiding a parent to hopefully have the court select a capable CFI for the unique circumstances of their case. The statute detailing the appointment of a CFI is found in Colorado Revised Statutes 14-10-116.5.
The second type of investigation is called a Parental Evaluation. This is a much more comprehensive investigation and it will review all issues of concern of both parents as well as additional specified topics as detailed in Colorado Revised Statutes 14-10-127. A parental evaluation is most often conducted by a licensed mental health professional. There is no maximum cost allowed as there is for a CFI investigation. A Parental Evaluation can be expensive depending upon the circumstances of the case. It is possible for a party of limited financial means to request a parental evaluation and force the other parent to pay for the evaluation. The evaluator will issue a report to the court and include recommendations to the court as to how to allocate parental responsibilities. If substance abuse and/or mental health issues are a significant concern in a custody case, a Parental Evaluation may be necessary to bring all the nuances of the parties' situation to the attention of the court for the court to craft an appropriate parenting plan. For situations when supervised visits with the children for one parent need to be considered, a parental evaluation is likely necessary or at a minimum a CFI is likely helpful to persuade the court to order supervised visits to protect the children. If a parental evaluation is a possibility in a case, it is prudent to consult with a competent family law attorney. As with a CFI, there is a defined process to pick an Evaluator for a case. An attorney is very useful in aiding a parent to hopefully have the court select a capable Evaluator for the unique circumstances of their case.