C.R.S. 14-10-116.5 authorizes the Colorado family law court to appoint a Child & Family Investigator (CFI), either upon request of one (or both) of the parties, or on its own.
Legal Guidelines for CFIs.
In addition to the C.R.S. 14-10-116.5 referenced above, there are additional sources of guidelines applicable to CFIs:
- Chief Justice Directive 04-08, as amended in 2011 (hereinafter "CJD 04-08"). Guidance from the Supreme Court which is applicable throughout Colorado.
- 4th Judicial District Chief Judge Order 10-03, which applies to El Paso and Teller Counties.
Regardless of who requests the CFI appointment, the Court may apportion the CFI's fees and costs to both of the parties, or to one of them. If either of the parties is indigent, the state of Colorado may pay that party's fees under the state rate.
Section III of CJD 04-08 caps the CFI fees at $2000. If the fees are going to be higher than that, the CFI needs to go back to Court to justify what extraordinary circumstances exist, and the Court must enter a detailed order showing the specific special circumstances which justify the higher amount.
Who Can Be Appointed as CFI
A CFI may be an attorney or a mental health professional, or anyone else with appropriate training acceptable to the Court. Mental health professionals are most common.
The 4th Judicial District has a set of minimum qualifications and standards which are even more specific, as well as a list of approved CFIs. (Note that in view of CJD 04-08 now capping fees at $2000, not only are the fees referenced out of date, but some of the providers may no longer provide CFI services).
Role of the CFI
The CFI is tasked with investigating, reporting, and making recommendations in the children's best interests on issues as specifically directed by the Court. As such, even if paid by one party, the CFI is effectively the neutral investigative arm of the Court, responsible to the Court, not to either parent. After issuing a report, the CFI may be called as a witness to testify.
Whereas a parental responsibilities evaluator can look into everything, the scope of the CFI investigation is limited to the specific issues in the appointment order).
As an "investigative arm of the Court", the CFI may not simultaneously serve in any role which could compromise that neutrality, such as a mediator, therapist, arbitrator, or later serve as a Child's Legal Representative (if the CFI is an attorney). Standard 4, CJD 04-08. However, the CFI may transition into a parent coordinator, decision-maker or arbitrator after conclusion of his/her role as CFI. Standard 5, CJD 04-08.
The CFI may not conduct psychological or drug/alcohol testing, but must instead report back to the Court and recommend such testing. Standard 13, CJD 04-08. Note that this is a new rule as of 2011 - prior to that it was typical for CFIs to perform such testing when deemed appropriate.
Use of Parental Responsibilities Evaluator
Should the parties or Court desire a more in-depth evaluation of the parenting issues, an expert must be appointed to conduct a parental responsibilities evaluation.
Conflict of Interest
In 2012, the Colorado Assembly enacted S.B. 12-56, which amended C.R.S. 14-10-116.5 to require that a Child & Family Investigators (as well as other parenting professionals) must be a "neutral third person", and within 7 days of appointment, provide the parties, counsel and court with a disclosure of the nature of any familial, social, or financial relationship with a party, counsel, or judge.
The court may then, on its own, terminate the appointment, or either party may file an objection to the appointment within 7 days (or the objection is waived), and the court then has 7 additional days to confirm or terminate the appointment.
It is unclear what resulted in this legislation. In El Paso County, counsel and parenting professionals generally know each other fairly well, work together on a number of cases, attend similar conferences, etc. But those are normal professional relationships that would likely not trigger the disclosure requirement.
Finally, note that this obligation only applies to appointments after July 1, 2012.