What is a CFI as compared to a PRE? CFI stands for Child and Family Investigator. PRE stands for Parental Responsibilities Evaluation. So when do you need one of these experts? The court can appoint a CFI or a PRE if there are disputes regarding parenting time, decision making, what is in the best interests of the child. A Child and Family Investigator (CFI) is typically an attorney or a mental health professional, usually a therapist or social worker, and their fee is based upon the state cap of $2,750. Typically, each party pays for half of the fee. There is a provision in the law where if you lack sufficient financial resources you may qualify for a state pay CFI.
A CFI investigation is usually abbreviated. They will talk to you and observe you and the other party with the child, talk to the other party, talk to your collateral contacts, and essentially write a report to the court as to what is in the best interest of the child regarding parenting time and decision making. That can be very helpful if you are not on the same page with the other parent regarding what’s in the best interest of your child. That process, though, can take about 90 days to complete so it will delay your case.
A Parental Responsibilities Evaluation is much more intensive and detailed as compared to a CFI. Most of the time, but not necessarily always, a Parental Responsibilities Evaluation involves some form of psychological testing. It involves very in-depth analysis. It involves much more in-depth interviews, observation of your interaction with the child and same with the other party’s interaction with the child, much more interviews with your collateral contacts. It is a very in-depth investigation and it can easily take four to six months to complete depending on the facts of the case. A Parental Responsibilities Evaluation typically starts out with a $5,000 retainer, this again depends on the individual that is selected, but the actual cost is very expensive. The last one I had done cost $20,000. I’ve seen them cost $18,000, so it’s going to be more than $12,000. So you have to ask yourself, “Is my dispute with the other party at that level that I need to spent what could be a nice start towards an educational fund on a Parental Responsibilities Evaluation?”
Lately, I’ve had courts be reluctant to appoint one of these individuals. So instead of automatically appointing the CFI in a particular case, I’ve had the judge refuse to do so recently on the basis that the issues really aren’t that disputed. It may be it’s a scheduling issue and the judge feels like he or she can resolve that without the expense and delay of a CFI. I’ve also had judges not appoint a PRE because the court has to look and see whether or not a CFI is sufficient and a lot of times the judge will decide a CFI investigation is sufficient. These folks do not need to spend 10, 20 thousand dollars on this type of evaluation. And a lot of times, like I said, the judges are not appointing an expert. That has been a trend away from automatically appointing a CFI to really a hard look at what are the disputed issues and do we really need to appoint one of these experts in that particular case. Again, if you’re not sure, please give me a call and we can discuss what the options are for you and what makes sense based upon your unique situation.