Which Child Custody Evaluator Is Best To Use In Your Case

child custody evaluationBy Carrie H. Westbrook

Attorney, Cordell & Cordell

All fathers going through divorce have divorce questions to ask about child custody and how to increase their parenting time through child custody agreements.

Judges frequently rely on child custody professionals (such as a custody evaluator or guardian ad litem) to help them determine the best interests of the children.

There are several different types of family law professionals you can request be appointed for your child custody case.

In the state I practice in (Colorado), a Child and Family Investigator (CFI) is probably going to be one of the cheapest because their fees are capped at $2,000 under a new directive that recently went into effect (although they can request additional fees if extraordinary circumstances exist).

The CFI is considered an investigative arm of the court and will basically talk to both parents and the child (if the child is over a certain age), talk to any counselors/therapists the parties or child sees, obtain medical records, talk to school counselors, etc., and otherwise investigate all issues to prepare a report to the court with recommendations for parenting time and decision-making.

Their main function is to assist the court in determining what is best for the child and they are to act as a neutral advocate for the child. Most CFI’s are a licensed counselor or therapist.

The CFI’s recommendations are not binding upon the court, but will typically be one of the primary things the court will consider in determining issues related to parenting time and decision-making for the child. This person may be an attorney, a mental health professional or another person qualified by certain experience to serve.

A Parenting Coordinator (PC) is slightly different in that his primary role is to reduce conflict between the parties to allow them to work together in the best interest of the child.

The parties may choose to allow the PC to be the “tie-breaker” so to speak when the parents cannot agree, but this is not required and both parties must agree to this before it will be put into effect.

If the PC is not appointed as a decision-maker, he will just be more of an intermediary between the parties to assist them in resolving conflict and in helping them implement a parenting plan.

PC’s are not expected to prepare a report to the court most of the time — they are basically there to assist the parties.

Also, PC’s fees are not capped, so they could be more expensive, but are typically less expensive than a Parental Responsibilities Evaluator (PRE). Since PRE’s fees are not capped they can get expensive (usually $3,500 to more than $5,500).

This person is required to be a licensed counselor, therapist, or psychiatrist who can administer psychological evaluations to the parties and do a more in-depth investigation into the parties’ lives and situations than a CFI does.

The PRE could also require the parties to submit to drug testing, alcohol evaluations, etc.  The PRE would then make recommendations to the court about the parenting time and decision-making of both parents.

A Child’s Legal Representative (CLR) is an attorney who is appointed to represent the child’s best interests. He cannot be examined or testify in court, but would instead act in an attorney’s role, questioning witnesses and arguing for a specific outcome to the court.

He will usually take the child’s wishes into account, but is not bound by them. So, for example, if the child’s wishes are to be with Mom because he gets to stay out late, drink alcohol, etc., the attorney may disregard those wishes in the best interest of the child and argue to the court that the child should be with Dad.

The attorney’s fees are not capped and a higher hourly rate is typically to be expected, making the CLR usually the most expensive option.

Further, the CLR is involved in all court proceedings and hearings, unlike the aforementioned professionals who would only appear in court at the request of the parties or the judge and whose duties are typically concluded once they submit their report.

It would be up to you to choose which parenting expert you can afford and which would be right for your child custody case. You would probably want to obtain from the court or the District Clerk the most recent list of parenting professionals and choose a name from the list to recommend to the court after you have done some investigation into the person.

This would allow you to tailor the person to the particular issues to the case. There will be some that are more experienced in dealing with substance abuse issues, for example, that you may want appointed if those are issues in your case.

Keep in mind that you must request one of these professionals to be appointed early in the case or the request could be denied by the court, especially if the court believes you are doing it just to delay the case.

As to the costs of these professionals, they will typically be allocated between the parties with each party paying a share proportionate to his/her income.

If one party makes no income, the other can be required to pay 100% of the fees, though (s)he can request that the other party’s portion be charged back to them, so to speak, upon final division of the property in the divorce.

I have only provided you with general divorce tips for men. For a more in-depth answer and specific legal advice on divorce, you should contact a family law attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

divorce lawyer Carrie WestbrookCordell & Cordell has men’s divorce lawyers located nationwide. To schedule an appointment with a divorce attorney, including Carrie H. Westbrook, an Associate Attorney in the Colorado Springs, Colorado office, please contact Cordell & Cordell.

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