Child Custody Experts in Colorado

When you can't reach agreement with the other parent, an expert may get involved in your case for parental responsibilities (i.e., child custody).

Different kinds of professional assistance are available depending on the stage and specifics of your case.

If you want the court to appoint one of the following types of experts to your case, file a motion. If you can't afford an expert, ask whether "state pay" is an option. You may suggest a particular expert, but if they know you, they must tell the court.

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During a case: Custody evaluations

To determine parental responsibilities, Colorado often appoints one or more of the following people. They interview the family to identify the child's needs and the preferences of everyone involved. Then they make a recommendation to the judge.

Usually, parents get to choose whether they want to work with one. In some cases, a judge orders it against the parents' wishes — and they are mindful of whether the parents can afford it.

One of the biggest benefits of working with a parenting expert is that it's an easy way to give the child's opinion to the judge. The judge won't let the parents speak for the child, and usually the judge doesn't want to interview the child directly (as it can be scary for a kid). So, if you want the judge to hear your child's opinion, think about hiring a parenting expert.

The judge doesn't have to follow what an expert says, but most judges do accept their recommendations.

Child's legal representative (CLR)

CLRs are increasingly popular in Colorado, especially for preteens and teens.

A CLR acts essentially as the child's lawyer, although they don't have to do what the child says. They listen to the child's wishes, but ultimately their job is to identify and defend the child's best interests.

In juvenile cases for things like dependency and neglect, usually a guardian ad litem takes on these responsibilities. In family law cases like divorce and separation, you'll more often encounter a CLR.

The CLR interviews the family. What you tell the CLR isn't confidential. They can share information if they believe it will help the child. You and the other parent can use the information gathered by the CLR to settle your case.

The CLR files motions, presents evidence and examines witnesses just like parents' lawyers. Unlike the two other experts who do evaluations (below), they don't write a report and can't be called as a witness.

Child and family investigator (CFI)

Though a CFI is often a lawyer, their role in your case is neutral. They work on your case for about 10 to 15 hours, interviewing you, the other parent and your child, and they write a report with recommendations for what to put in the parenting plan.

The CFI can't charge you over $2,750 for the investigation and report unless the court specifically grants them permission to. If they prepare to testify at trial, they can charge an additional $500.

If you disagree with the CFI's recommendation, you may request a rebuttal expert to give a second opinion. The rebuttal expert will be a PRE, and you'll have to pay for them. (See below.) The judge will reject your request if they believe you're trying to delay the case or harass the other parent.

Parenting responsibilities evaluator (PRE)

A PRE is more thorough. They do interviews like a CFI, but they're a licensed mental health professional who coordinates mental health testing for each parent. This may be the better choice when there are concerns about a parent's mental health or when a deeper look into the case is otherwise needed.

The PRE writes a parenting evaluation that can be nearly 100 pages.

They cost thousands of dollars — even tens of thousands, depending on your case. The law doesn't limit what they can charge. If at least parent requests a PRE and is willing to pay, the judge almost always appoints one.

If you disagree with the PRE's recommendation, you can request that the judge appoint another PRE to give a second opinion. You'll have to pay again.

After a case: Guidance for parents

Even after you have a court order, disagreements may arise. A parental coordinator (PC) or decision-maker (DM) may be a good solution for you. When you write your parenting plan, you can agree to use a PC or a DM to deal with conflicts that may arise in the future.

Both are like mediators, but with extra knowledge in child issues and longer relationships with their clients. They're court-appointed, typically for a renewable two-year term. Some people work as PC/DMs, combining the two roles.

If you hired a PRE and they've finished their work in that role, you can hire the same person to work for you as a PC or DM.

A court can order you to use a PC without your approval, but it can only order you to use a DM if both parents agree to it.

Parental coordinator (PC)

A PC helps you interpret and implement your parenting plan or other court order. They often take on a coach-like role, helping parents understand child development, work on communication skills, and more.

Discussions with a PC are confidential, and this kind of expert does not guarantee a solution to disagreements. They let you make a decision with the other parent if and when you're ready.

Decision-maker (DM)

A DM, by contrast, makes specific important decisions for you, like ones about medical treatment or unescorted flights. The court order says what topics they can decide on.

First, a DM suggests options. For example, they might point out that an older sibling could escort your child on a flight. If you and the other parent reach a deadlock, the DM will make the decision for you and report it to the court.

DMs work quickly, so they can help you with time-sensitive issues, such as school attendance for the upcoming year.

Preparing to work with a parenting expert

A parenting expert tries to find the best outcome for your child.

Use all the tools at your disposal to help them understand your family's situation. You can show a tally of child-related expenses, your child's activities calendar, your messages with the other parent and more.

The Custody X Change online app enables you to create all these items in one place. Custody X Change makes sure you're prepared not only for a parenting expert, but for every step of your custody case.

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