When couples decide to divorce and have children, they are challenged by the need to find common cause in pursuing a parenting plan of shared care. In reaching a settlement of their divorce, they need to make decisions regarding: residency of the children; parenting time; finding common ground on the process and structure of shared decision making and level of involvement; and working together for the “best interest” of the children. There appears to be a universal desire to want the best for our children and to pass on the best that each of us has to offer. Most parents have a strong desire to positively influence, love and share in the shaping of your children, creating happy and well-adjusted adults.
While most people in failed relationships do indeed find ways to successfully co-parent their children, some find their divorce process to be highly conflicted and adversarial. Vital emotional issues of love and broken love become issues of power and control. As a result, it is difficult to reach agreements on decisions affecting the children, and they may need help in seeking resolution. Multiple options for help are available for individuals in high conflict divorces, and there are various professionals resources in your area. Mediators can be extremely useful in seeking common ground toward developing a parenting plan acceptable to both parties. When couples continue to have difficulties in working together, Parental Coordinators (PC) or Decision Makers (DM) may be a helpful option.
In unresolved situations, either party or the court can choose to seek the help of a Child and Family Investigator (CFI) or Parental Responsibility Evaluator (PRE). If you are involved in a high-conflict separation and divorce, resources are available: in particular the Metro Denver Interdisciplinary Committee or Boulder Interdisciplinary Committee are excellent resources. You can browse the list of members and research the backgrounds of various professionals, who can help you reach a settlement in your divorce. Both of these organizations provide a listing of attorneys, mental health professionals, mediators, and substance abuse counselors.
Child and Family Investigator (CFI)
In high conflict divorce cases, a child and family investigator (CFI) may be appointed in a domestic relations case pursuant to section 14-10-116.5, C.R.S. upon request of either party or upon the court’s own motion. This typically occurs when parties in a divorce have difficulty in acting in the “best interest” of the child or children: they may have difficulty over issues of decision making, residency, or parenting time. The court determines the scope of the CFI’s appointment. The role of the CFI is to investigate (i.e. interviews with both parties, home visits and interview/observations of children, review collateral information from both parties references), report and make recommendations to the court on issues outlined in the order of appointment that affect the best interests of children involved in the domestic relations case. The CFI files a written report with the report and may be called as a witness. By statute, fees for the CFI are limited to $2,000. A fee of $500 is typical when testimony is required.
Parental Responsibility Evaluator (PRE)
In extreme cases of high conflict divorce cases, the domestic relations court may appoint a mental health expert (pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-127) to conduct a parental responsibility evaluation (PRE), which is a comprehensive parenting/custody evaluation. While the CFI is used for a quick and inexpensive investigation of specific issues, a PRE is typically used in higher conflict divorce cases, or where there are multiple issues that require investigation. These may involve issues of child abuse/neglect, mental health problem, or substance abuse. Either party can request that a PRE be appointed, or, less commonly, the court may direct that one be appointed.
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