In Family Law, Helpful Articles

By:  Julie Kreutzer, Esq.

Here are some important things to remember when you talk to a CFI or PRE since this person will be giving the Court recommendations on issues like how much time your children spend with you, how decisionmaking will occur and other critical issues.  Let’s not mistake the matter, judges take a CFI or PRE reports and recommendations very seriously because they are experts who have had a chance to talk to the kids, their teachers and therapists, and meet the parents in an in-depth way. Judges don’t have the time to do this and they don’t like talking to kids because it puts the kids in the middle and often creates such pressure that they don’t get accurate information.  So this expert is going to tell the judge what should happen for your kids’ entire childhood and the judge will likely listen.    Let’s start by being aware that the CFI does some investigation and then issues their report and recommendations but they have a budget that is capped so they cannot expend as much time on the case while a PRE is expected to do a more in-depth investigation and has more time to do it.  Either way, it is important to make sure that their investigation and report is helpful by helping them.  Here’s how:

  1. Let the CFI or PRE start things by going through their process of asking questions, set up appointments and so on.  They like to to their job in a certain way so if you go in with a list of things you want to talk about that will likely offend them.  They will usually give you an opportunity to voice your concerns, ask questions and give them information at some point in the interview.  If you get to the end of the first appointment and they haven’t said anything, ask when you would be allowed to do this.  Every parent they meet with has information and witnesses they think are important as well as their own view of what is going on.  But parents are often quite upset about the divorce and the issues being raised so they can get hung up on information that isn’t relevant and they often lack perspective on their case. Besides that, they often don’t fully understand what this expert does. All told, this is why we let the expert guide this process instead of trying to take over.
  1. Always be as positive and honest about the other parent as you can be because that is one of the things the CFI or PRE looks for. If they feel one parent sees no good at all in the other parent and does not want to try and work with them in anyway, that will be a negative.  Our Colorado statute requires that both parents foster love and affection with the other parent so as you can imagine, the expert expects them to try and do this as well as work together as best they can until the children are 19.  If it is clear that you recognize that your kids will do better by having the advantage of both parents then the expert will be more likely to listen to you when you raise the issues that concern you. Example:  Do not say “Their father is a horrible and cruel person and I hope my children never have to see him again because he adds nothing at all to their lives and I’m sick of dealing with him.”   Do say:  “I understand that Mom’s contribute things that Dad’s don’t so I totally respect my kids need their Mom.  (And of course, Moms need to say the same thing about Dads.)
  1. CFI’s and PRE’s are supposed to be problem solvers that work with both parents and they want both parents to try and work with each other.  So when you are voicing a problem or a concern with the other parent, you need to do it as a problem solver.  Example:  “I have been concerned about Jacob’s anger and whether his childhood is affecting how he parents how he works with me.” If you are asked what you mean, give meaningful details like: “He told me he was raised by his father, who was very harsh and did not allow him to see his mother. He is often dismissive about women, he won’t discuss parenting issues with me and he is tougher on our daughter than our son, so I wonder if there’s some issues that he needs help with so that this doesn’t continue to be a problem in co-parenting with him or an issue for our kids.” What is effective about this is you are trying to understand and work with a concern you have. You aren’t telling the CFI how to do her job or making demands, you are simply trying to understand why you are having difficulty working with Jacob as a parent and you are trying to solve it rather than just blame him.  She is getting key information on what he has been doing in a way she can really listen to and accept since it’s not just part of a long list of criticisms about him that led to the divorce.
  1.  Be aware that the CFI or PRE is supposed to not take sides so it may feel like he doesn’t sympathize or understand.  That is because his job is to investigate, try to understand what is happening and then make recommendations.  He can’t do that if he’s taking sides since he is not your therapist or your attorney.  He is also aware that both parents will have faults and are not perfect people.  That doesn’t bother him, he wouldn’t be doing these cases if both parents were perfect people who got along very well.  So his job is to figure out what is happening and come up with a plan he thinks will work for your children. The only person’s side he is supposed to be on is the children’s side.  He wants them to be safe, happy and have good lives. That’s why it should be easy to cooperate with him and help him as much as you can since that is what you want as well. If you feel your CFI or PRE has a bias, talk with your attorney about it or the judge at hearing if you do not have an attorney. (That topic is complicated and worth a consult with an attorney since it has to be done correctly).
  1. Think about the long term before you ever talk to the PRE or CFI.  For most people that means working toward mutual cooperation around illness, injury and unexpected events such as wanting to schedule a bit of extra time to meet a relative in town. If you work your way to a more cooperative relationship with your ex, your future will be much easier. Also think about how some day you want it to be possible for both of you to be at your kids’ high school and college graduations and their weddings. You don’t want your children to have to pick who comes because the two parents hate each other and will ruin their special occasions.  You want the kids to want to come to holidays at your home and spend time with you because they know that despite the divorce and any hardships from it, you were always the positive parent who cared for them and loves them.  You don’t want them to remember a childhood full of anger and fighting between their parents or that you put them in the middle of your parenting disputes.  For all these reasons, you need to work with this expert to come up with a plan so that you can resolve the issues that are causing trouble and create a better working relationship with the other parent.   CFIs and PREs frequently deal with parents who do not look at the long term, hate the other parent and are very difficult to work with so when they meet a parent who is trying to be reasonable and work with the other parent, they really respect them and it shows in their report and recommendations.
  • This article is geared towards Colorado law. Please consult with a practitioner in your state if you reside in another state.  Also be advised this article is general in nature and that questions and concerns specific to your case are best answered by an attorney who understands your particular situation.
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