By: Curtis Wiberg
One of the most emotional issues in a contested Colorado divorce occurs when the parties do not agree on what parenting arrangements are in the best interests of the child/children. The concerns one parent may have about the other parent and how that concern affects the well-being of the children can be hard to prove to the Court. For these reasons, Colorado enacted two separate statutes authorizing a Court to appoint an expert to look into the family situation and make recommendations to the Court as to what is in a child’s best interest, both as to decision making (legal custody) and parenting time (visitation).
One statute (C.R.S. § 14-10-116.5) authorizes the appointment of a Child Family Investigator (CFI). In essence, a CFI is a neutral, third person charged with the duty of investigation the best interest of the children and submitting a written report, with recommendations, to the court. A CFI is often-times a lawyer, but sometimes a mental health professional. An advantage of using a CFI is the cost, as the fees are statutorily capped at $2,750, except in extraordinary circumstances, and are usually split between the parties. CFI’s can be used both before final orders and after, such as in a modification situation. In post-decree divorce cases or in custody cases, if one party is indigent, the Court can authorize the state to pay that person’s portion of the CFI’s fees. A CFI’s investigation usually involves interviewing each parent alone, a home visit with the parent and child/children, a review of the pleadings, an interview with the child if they are old enough, a review of any questionnaire the CFI provides the parent, and interviews with any collateral witnesses like extended family, teachers, or therapists. Directives prepared by the Colorado Supreme Court govern the conduct of the CFI to ensure an unbiased and thorough investigation that is well documented, among other things. The CFI then prepares a report of his or her findings and submits recommendations to the court on decision-making, parenting time, holiday parenting time, and if appropriate, recommendations for counseling or lifestyle changes for either or both parties. Continue reading