In a court case where children are involved, such as a divorce or a question of parental responsibilities, a court or any party involved may request a CFI. CFI stands for Child and Family Investigator. Sometimes your lawyer may recommend you request a CFI. And sometimes, your lawyer would object to having a CFI appointed on a case. Below is a short outline of what a CFI is, does, and can do. Then, there is a brief discussion of potential advantages and potential disadvantages to having a CFI appointed in a case.
Who They Are:
At its most basic level, a CFI can be an attorney, a mental health professional, or any other “individual with appropriate training, qualifications, and an independent perspective acceptable to the court.” And again, either party in the case, or the judge, may request a CFI be appointed to investigate. However, in a single case, a CFI cannot also be the child’s Guardian ad Litum. These two people must be different. Additionally, the person generally cannot have any sort of prior relationship with any party involved in the case. And any prior relationship must be disclosed by the CFI within seven days after being appointed to the case.
There are rosters of eligible CFIs in every county of Colorado, and one master list for the whole state of Colorado. Each CFI must be on the main Colorado list, and on one judicial district list. However, it must be noted that the individuals on these lists are only individuals who: (1) have signed an affidavit, (2) passed a background check by the Colorado Bureau of Investigations, and (3) taken a court ordered training. Therefore, you and/or your attorney should investigate the potentially involved CFI yourself. You should find them online, find out their qualifications, see if anyone you know has used them before, etc. If they are going to be investigating you and your family, you should at least know their professional background so as to determine if you believe they are not suited for the investigation of your family.
What They Do:
A CFI does what their name entails: investigate the child’s and family’s situation. That is, they will investigate the general lives of the people involved with the child and will then write a report to the court about their investigation.
The purpose of the investigation is to give the court a neutral and short assessment of the family situation. If the investigation is found to be too brief, or there is more investigation that is needed, the court could appoint another/different type of evaluator.
The CFI’s report will make recommendations, taking into account the specific “best interests of the child” factors. These factors can be found in the Colorado Revised Statutes of 14-10-124.
The CFI can take into account the wishes of the child, but need not actually adopt them in their recommendations to the court. Finally, while the CFI will write a report, sometimes the CFI will be asked to testify as a witness in court regarding their report.
How Much They Cost:
Typically, a CFI will cost $2000. This cost will usually be divided up between the parties. This first amount includes the investigation and the reporting. However, if the CFI is called to testify, it is could be around another $500. If you and/or the opposing party is found to be “indigent,” the court may pay the costs of the CFI for you.
Potential Advantages and Disadvantages of a CFI:
A CFI is a great resource for parties who are having difficulty deciding what is best for the child. A CFI is a neutral investigator and therefore is not biased. If you believe that your case is “better” than the other party’s case, and you want the court to see that, it may be a good idea to request to appoint a CFI. Further, a CFI is someone who can really delve into the facts of the case. Whereas a judge may hear your facts for less than an hour, a CFI could potentially investigate up to many hours to clearly understand the situation and make the best recommendations they believe fit.
However, a CFI may not be a great assignment for a potential case. First, they cost at least $2000 and potentially more if they are requested to testify. When a client is already paying their lawyer to advocate for them, this cost may seem too much. Second, if you have something you are hiding in your closet and don’t want anyone to find out, a CFI may find this out. The CFI could then make recommendations against your belief of the child’s best interests.
Links to Potential CFIs:
These are the links to the court approved lists of CFIs in Adams and Broomfield (http://www.courts.state.co.us/Courts/District/Custom.cfm?District_ID=17&Page_ID=177), Boulder (http://www.courts.state.co.us/userfiles/file/Administration/Executive/JP3/CFI/2012_CFI_district_rosters/2012_JD20_CFI%20Roster.pdf) , Denver (http://www.courts.state.co.us/userfiles/file/Court_Probation/02nd_Judicial_District/Denver_District_Court/CFI%20Directory2013_Final_revised_12%203.pdf), and Jefferson County (http://www.courts.state.co.us/userfiles/file/Administration/Executive/JP3/CFI/2012_CFI_district_rosters/2012_JD1_CFI_Roster.pdf).
Note that these lists change every year, so make sure you are linking to the appropriate year. If a CFI has already been appointed in your case, and you believe has done something wrong, you should file a complaint with the courts. Click here to do so (http://www.courts.state.co.us/Administration/Executive/cficomplaint/index.cfm)
If you are involved in a court dispute over parenting time with your children, it is absolutely imperative that you at the very least consult with an attorney. You could be giving up serious rights and not realize it. Further, if a judge or the opposing party requests a CFI, you should understand the implications of the appointment. Please contact Peter Loyd Weber & Associates for a free phone consultation on your issue today at: (720) 863-7755.