Is a CFI or a PRE Right for Your Case?

By Carrie Eckstein

When there are contested cases concerning the allocation of parental responsibilities, the court may appoint an expert to conduct an investigation. The most common experts are known as Child and Family Investigators (CFI) or Parental Responsibility Evaluators (PRE). Each one is appointed under their own Statutory authority, has their own set of Directives, and the professional has their own board of authorities to comply with. Practically speaking, here is a summary of the similarities and differences of the two types of experts to be appointed by the court in your case:

Child and Family Investigator

  • Typically a legal background; sometimes a social work or mental health background, but does not do their own psychological testing for the investigation.
  • Investigates what is in the child’s best interests.
  • $2750 retainer; capped retainer.
  • Additional retainer for testimony is typically $500.

Parental Responsibility Evaluator

  • Mental health background; typically does psychological testing.
  • Investigates what is in the child’s best interests.
  • Usually at least a $4,500 retainer with no cap on fees; these expenses may easily exceed $10,000-$20,000 depending on the case.
  • Additional retainer for testimony.

The process for the investigations is similar; generally speaking, the PRE is much more in depth in scope and time (and includes some types of mental health evaluation):

  1. Parties fill out a detailed intake and background sheet.
  2. Parties meet separately with the expert.
  3. Expert meets the child with each party separately.
  4. Expert reviews all information provided: text messages, emails, recordings, school information, calendars, etc.
  5. Expert talks to relevant collateral witnesses: significant other, siblings, family, neighbors, child’s friends’ parents, child’s teachers, etc.
  6. Expert follows up as needed or desired.
  7. Issues a report that makes recommendations for parenting time.

At The Harris Law Firm, we are fortunate to have several CFIs on staff to assist in answering your questions about the process, and our attorneys have worked with CFIs and PREs on many allocation of parental responsibility cases. If you believe your case may require an expert, please contact us for a consultation to discuss the allocation of parental responsibilities and experts by filling out our online form or by giving us a call at (303) 622-5502.

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