In any child custody case, the focus of the Court is always determining what custody and visitation situation is in the best interest of the child. In order to make the best determination, experts may be asked to investigate, evaluate and, in limited instances, intervene. Colorado family courts recognize three different types of experts: Parenting Coordinator Decision Maker (PCDM), Child & Family Investigator (CFI) and Parental Responsibility Evaluator (PRE). What role and which is needed in your case depends upon the expert's qualifications.
Parenting Coordinator Decision Maker
A PCDM is an expert who is mutually agreed upon by both custodial parties to act as a type of visitation referee. When disputes or ambiguities in visitation arise, the PCDM has the authority to make the decision.
An example to illustrate the PCDM's role:
A father has weekend visitation time with his children that begins when their mother drops them off around 9 am; the children have a weekend soccer tournament. The mother says that the children cannot be dropped off at their father's house until later in the afternoon. The father argues that the soccer tournament conflicts with his court-appointed time and insists they come at the regular time and miss the tournament. The children are the parties who stand to suffer in this situation because they may be made to miss out on activities they enjoy (which may also cause them to miss out on opportunities for social development with their peers) because of their parents' conflict. To resolve the conflict in a way that minimizes the negative impact on the children, the PCDM will talk to all parties involved and make a determination to settle the dispute. The PCDM's determination for each situation is final.
Child & Family Investigator
A CFI is a court-appointed investigator charged with evaluating the parenting roles and responsibilities and making recommendations regarding the child's best interests based on his/her findings.The CFI conducts observations and interviews; however, the CFI's investigative authority is limited. A CFI cannot conduct any psychological testing or make assessments about mental and behavioral health issues like substance abuse or anger management. The CFI cannot make recommendations about relocating children when one parent is seeking to leave the state.
Upon concluding the investigation, the CFI must file a report with the court with his/her recommendations for custody within 21 days of the final orders hearing. The expertise of a CFI is sufficient for many cases, and the court-restricted fee schedule (CFI's can charge no more than $2,000 per case unless granted permission by the court to assess a higher fee) limits the financial strain on both parties.
Parental Responsibility Evaluator
When mental and behavioral health issues and/or the possibility of relocating outside of Colorado arises, an expert with the credentials to make in-depth psychological assessments and recommendations that may carry more weight with the court is required. A PRE is a doctor of psychology with a background in addressing a wide range of mental/behavior health and domestic issues, including:
- Anger management
- Domestic violence
- Sexual abuse
- Substance abuse
PREs have the authority to conduct psychological testing in addition to the investigative methods available to CFIs. Like the CFI, a PRE must file a report with findings and recommendations to the court no later than 21 day prior to a final orders hearing.
Finding the Right Expert
Finding the right expert is crucial for the success of your custody case, but you should not be the one that has to figure out what type of expert meets the needs of your unique situation and who is the best expert to retain (when choice is allowed by the court). You need an experienced Colorado family law attorney who understands the different roles of child custody experts and has relationships with several qualified practitioners.
Gordon N. Shayne has over 30 years of legal experience, and has dedicated over a decade solely to the practice of family law. In his tenure he has built relationships with judges, child custody experts and other family law attorneys; he knows what types of experts will be best suited for each unique case, and he knows the reputation of many investigators. For experienced family law counsel that remains focused on the best interest of the child(ren), contact The Law Office of Gordon N. Shayne.
Disclaimer: The blogs posted on ShayneLaw.com are offered for informational purposes only. These blogs are not a solicitation for legal business and should not be construed as providing any legal advice or legal opinions as to any specific fact or circumstance. Specific legal issues, concerns and conditions always require the advice of an appropriate legal professional. To obtain legal advice or opinions about Colorado family law, personally consult with a licensed Colorado attorney.