There’s no doubt that divorce is a long, often complicated matter. It doesn’t help when there are children involved, which is why a CFI, or child and family investigator, can be a great help. So, what is a CFI, and what do they do to help in a divorce case?

What is a Child and Family Investigator?

CFIs become involved in a divorce case when children are involved, and their main purpose is to sort out issues between spouses like decision-making responsibilities and parenting schedules. Another beneficial aspect of CFIs is that they can be trained mental health professionals who can help parents work through issues, no matter how difficult or embarrassing they may be.

On the legal side of things, CFIs are appointed by courts and are third parties who can be attorneys themselves, mental health professionals, or people with the necessary training and qualifications. As the name entails, child and family investigators investigate when appointed to a case by the court. They observe how parents interact with their children, interview the parents, and interview friends and family members in order to make recommendations to the Court about rulings affecting the kiddos. On top of this, CFIs must also consider the best interests of the child when answering the issues at hand. With this information collected, the CFI will create a report that is then given to the court, who will come to the final conclusion.

Cost and Appointment

While there is a $2,750 cap in Colorado, retainers and hourly rates for CFIs generally vary. CFIs are not allowed to charge beyond this amount unless the Court issues an order explaining why they must go beyond the designated amount.

In order for a CFI to be appointed to your case, you as the client/divorcing parent have to file a motion to appoint a CFI to the court. You must also send a copy of this motion to the opposing attorney/party. While any CFI can be appointed, you can request a specific CFI to join your case. However, the Colorado Judicial Branch recommends doing your research and contacting the CFI prior to requesting them for your case if nothing else than to confirm their availability.

Are There Alternatives to Child and Family Investigators?

Aside from a CFI, there are some cases in which a PRE, or parental responsibilities evaluator, can be used instead. PREs are from the social services department or are mental health professionals, not attorneys. PREs are generally used in place of CFIs when there are multiple allegations or factors that need to be addressed, and–because of this–their reports are longer than a CFI report. Since PREs are always mental health workers or professionals, they are better suited for cases where the mental health needs of the parents or children are in question. It’s also important to note that since PRE reports are much longer and detailed, they can cost up to $10,000. So, if a PRE is not necessary, then it is often better to go with a CFI instead.


Ultimately, child and family investigators can be extremely helpful in a divorce case where issues like decision-making responsibilities and parenting time are in question. Although they do cost money, and there is a process for appointment, they can help families sort out conflicts in their case, and are much less costly than hiring a PRE instead.

Interested in learning more about Family Law and divorce? Check out these other blog posts about the topic:

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