FAQs about CFIs

Courts may appoint Child and Family Investigators (CFIs) in cases involving parental responsibilities, including parenting time and decision-making.  The role of the CFI is to investigate, report, and make recommendations to the court, as directed in the order of appointment, regarding the best interests of the children. A CFI typically prepares a report and can testify in court.

CFIs are helpful in high conflict situations where the parents are unable to come to an agreement as to parenting time. Judicial officials tend to like CFIs in cases where they do not feel they have enough unbiased information to form an opinion as to what is in the children’s best interests. CFIs can also be helpful if one parent suspects another of any kind of mistreatment or abuse because the CFI gets to know everyone in the case, including the children, and are trained to identify if abuse is going on in the home.

Every CFI has a different approach to their investigations, but in general a CFI’s investigation will include the following:

  1. Sending out paperwork for the parents to review, sign, and return. These are usually releases that allow the CFI to speak with third-parties (therapists, teachers, etc), or are Intake forms that allow the CFI to find out more information about the case.
  2. Interviews with each parent. These can occur in a variety of methods and settings, but they typically last about an hour long and is the parent’s first real chance to speak with the CFI to tell them their concerns and desired outcome.
  3. Home visits. A CFI will make a visit to each parent’s home at least once, at a pre-arranged time, to consider the living situation of that parent and to witness the children in that environment with that parent. It may be at this time that the CFI will ask to speak with the children alone, depending on the ages of the children.
  4. Collateral interviews. Collaterals are third-parties who either know the parents well in their capacity as a parent; know the child and parent together; or know the child individually and separate from the parent. Examples of these may be: relatives, neighbors, family, coaches, teachers, therapists, school counselors. Collateral sources are a great way for the CFI to take in and consider unbiased information about the child.
  5. Report. Once the CFI collects all of the information, he/she will spend some time compiling all of that information into a report, which considers not only the wishes of the parents and the child, but how the applicable law applies to this case.
  6. Testimony. A CFI may be called to testify at your hearing regarding his or her recommendation regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities. This isn’t always necessary and is up to the parents, their attorneys, and the Court.

CFIs cannot conduct psychological testing or make recommendations or conclusions regarding a parent’s mental health. A CFI is permitted to suggest that it may be useful for a parent to consider a mental health evaluation, or recommend that the Court order further investigation with a licensed mental health professional.

If you feel that a CFI would be useful in your case, you can either file a Motion with the court directly (if you don’t have an attorney), or you can tell your attorney that you’d like a CFI to be appointed. The CFIs MUST be court appointed, and even if you request a CFI, the judge may not agree that it’s necessary.

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