What is the Difference Between a Child and Family Investigator and a Parental Responsibilities Evaluator?

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Child custody is one of the most hotly contested points in divorce proceedings. In many cases, parents cannot agree on a parenting plan that suits everyone. Sometimes, one of the parents is unreasonable or simply uncooperative.

When parenting plan negotiations get stuck, a Colorado court may appoint a neutral third party to facilitate the process. This person may be a child and family investigator (CFI) or a parental responsibilities evaluator (PRE).

What is the difference between a CFI and PRE in Colorado? Marie Drake, family lawyer and founder of The Drake Law Firm, P.C. in Golden, Colorado, explains.


Both CFIs and PREs are professionals who can help resolve high-conflict custody cases. However, CFIs and PREs have different qualifications and evaluation scopes.


A CFI is the type of custody expert that most often steps in when parents cannot reach a custody agreement or when an existing parenting plan needs modification. The CFI will examine the family situation and issue recommendations relating to parenting time, decision-making, and other contested points. In Colorado, a CFI is typically a licensed attorney in family law or, in some cases, a mental health professional who specializes in child development.

A CFI investigation may include data questionnaires, home or office visits, speaking with the child, and, in some cases, talking to third parties like friends or family members. This type of investigation does not involve psychological testing. The CFI will usually issue their report within 60 to 90 days.


A PRE is a mental health professional who specializes in determining parenting plan recommendations in complex and very high-conflict cases. Family situations that call for a PRE may involve serious issues like substance abuse, sexual abuse, or mental health concerns.

A PRE is qualified to conduct psychological testing and usually produces a much more extensive report than a CFI. The PRE will typically observe each parent with the child to evaluate parent-child dynamics and conduct interviews with relevant third parties. On average, a PRE will issue a report within 90 days.

A PRE evaluation may determine custody, visitation, parenting responsibility, and the need for family or individual therapy. It can also address parental conflicts and make recommendations for resolving them. If one of the parents is dissatisfied with the PRE report, they may request a re-evaluation, provided they are ready to pay for it.

CFI and PRE Costs in Colorado

In Colorado, a CFI’s services can cost up to, but not greater than, $2,750. While the cost of a PRE may reach as high as $10,000, depending on how complex the case is.

Generally, a Colorado family court will apportion the costs of CFI or PRE services between both parents. If the parents cannot afford these costs, in rare instances, the State of Colorado may cover the fee.

Why You Should Try to Avoid Court Proceedings

Unresolved conflicts, poor communication, and vindictive feelings may arise during divorce proceedings and make it difficult for parents to reach a custody agreement.

If possible, you should try to work together with your co-parent to achieve a suitable parenting agreement. Doing so will help you avoid exhausting court proceedings and save time, stress, and money. Experienced lawyers in family law may help when negotiations run aground.

How Experienced Child Custody Lawyers Can Help With Your Parenting Plan

Both parties may run into debatable points like child custody and child support even in amicable divorces. Working with knowledgeable child custody lawyers will make sure you reach an agreement that protects your child’s interests and your rights as a parent.

Marie Drake, a Golden family law attorney, has vast experience in all divorce and family law matters in Colorado. In practice since 1999, she also has mediator training and can help you:

  • Get through divorce and custody arrangements with a reasonable, commonsense approach
  • Find workable solutions by negotiating with the other party
  • Reach a custody agreement that’s better for your children
  • Handle courtroom proceedings if mediation fails

The Drake Law Firm, P.C. – Family Lawyer Near Me in Golden, Colorado

If you’re looking for a “family lawyer near me,” you may be preparing for divorce and custody proceedings. Perhaps you’re already stuck in the middle of endless, draining arguments about parenting arrangements.

The Drake Law Firm, P.C., a family law firm with offices in Golden and Colorado, is here to help you protect the best interests of your children, work out a reasonable parenting plan, and get through divorce with as little stress as possible.

To schedule your consultation with an experienced family lawyer, call (303) 261-8111 today. For your convenience, we can consult over the phone or Zoom. We also offer Saturday consults by appointment.


Copyright© 2022. The Drake Law Firm, P.C. All rights reserved.


The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

The Drake Law Firm, P.C.
2117 Ford St.
Golden, CO 80401
(303) 261-8111

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