Child and Family Investigators are tools used by the Court and parties to help determine parental right and responsibilities in family law cases. Commonly referred to as a CFI, they are usually used in extreme cases where there are allegations of abuse and mistreatment by one or more parents. The court can appoint a CFI on its own if there are allegations of abuse by one party or either party may ask for a CFI if they believe one is necessary. CFI’s are commonly attorneys, mental health professionals, or any other individual who is trained and the Court believes is able to be an effective CFI.
The huge benefit of appointing a CFI is that a CFI can investigate any or all issues in a custody case. These issues may include primary residence, parenting time, decision-making, allegations of endangerment/child abuse, and relocation. A CFI will spend time with the child or children, and spend time with the child while spending time with each parent. The CFI will be able to investigate the above mentioned issues and ultimately file a report with the court and testify if necessary concerning the child’s wishes and how each parent interacts with the child. A CFI is a great way to get the wishes of a child into court because a CFI can testify to the child’s wishes. A CFI is simply the eye and ears of the Court and their report and recommendations carry a lot of weight with the Court. Frequently, the Court follows the CFI’s recommendations and uses them as a guide for their decision in custody cases and guides for their orders.
The one drawback is a CFI is expensive and their reports take time. Additionally, because their report holds some much weight with the Court, they can be devastating to one of the parties. An investigation can last 1-3 months with costs capped at $2,000. Therefore, the appointment of a CFI will delay the disposition of the issues in dispute and again run up costs. However, in extreme cases of child abuse a CFI can be a great asset for the children as they can represent their wishes in Court. A CFI is a very powerful tool for both the litigants and the Court.