Colorado courts handling divorce, family law or child custody cases routinely appoint Child and Family Investigators (which are typically referred to as “CFIs”) in cases to investigate the famil(ies), meet with the parties and the children, talk to witnesses, and create a report and recommendation which is helpful to the court to determine the specifics of the parenting plan or custody order.
Colorado Revised Statutes, section 14-10-116.5, states that the court may, upon the motion of either party or upon its own motion, “appoint a neutral third person to serve the court as a child and family investigator,” setting forth the “specific duties of the child and family investigator in a written order of appointment.” The CFI can either be an attorney or a mental health professional. The CFI must be already certified by the state and is governed by numerous other regulations dictating their procedures.
It varies from one judge to another to what extent a CFI’s report is taken as solid evidence of what the children’s best interests are, and in many situations, a court will consider the CFI’s report to be almost irrefutable evidence of what the parenting plan should look like. Therefore, it goes without saying that a CFI may be necessary in resolving many parenting time disputes.
The laws concerning CFIs in Colorado change very frequently. Previously, the cost of CFIs were “uncapped,” which caused many people to pay very high amounts for a CFI recommendation. Several years prior to 2016, the CFI costs were capped at $2,000, and more recently the cap was risen to $2,750. (This is subject to change after 2016.) These costs are still a heavy burden to expect the parties in a divorce or child custody case to pay. In some situations, the state will pay for a party’s obligation to a CFI if the party is indigent.
When filing a divorce case involving children, or a child custody case in Colorado, it is very important to consider whether a CFI will be necessary to resolve parenting plan disputes. In some jurisdictions, the question of whether a CFI should be appointed needs to be resolved relatively quickly.