Divorce with Kids: How is Visitation Determined? — Part II

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In my last blog post, I explained the Court’s process for determining parenting time for a non-custodial parent. In more detail, I talked about the CFI, child and family investigation (read the last blog post HERE).

In today’s blog post, we’ll look more closely at the PRE, or parental responsibilities evaluation, and how it differs from a CFI.

Custody Evaluations in Colorado: the PRE

Reduced to its basic purpose, the PRE is essentially the same thing as a CFI: it is an evaluation that will address recommendations as to how the parents will make child-related decisions, and it will make recommendations for the parenting time schedule including the same three areas as the CFI (the ‘regular’ schedule which occurs during the school year, and the ‘holiday/vacation’ schedule that occurs during summer vacation and on holidays).

The PRE is not legally binding on the judge, but in my experience, judges give more weight to a PRE (over a CFI) for several reasons:

  • There is no cap on how much a PRE can charge. The CFI is legally limited to a cost of $2750, which often means that it is a relatively superficial evaluation as the evaluator doesn’t have the time to research the family dynamic and history in depth. With no cap on how much a PRE can cost, the investigator is free to spend more time interviewing, collecting data, and observing.

In my experience, most PREs require a retainer of $5000. That’s not a cap — sometimes clients will end up paying more than that, depending on how much time the investigator spends on the case.

Because of this, judges generally consider the PRE to be more thorough. It makes sense: if someone tells the PRE evaluator that the father was arrested ten years ago, the evaluator then has the freedom to go get a copy of the police report and verify that information. A CFI is unlikely to have the time to do that.

  • The vast majority of PRE reports that I have encountered include a psychological test. It’s not mandatory, but when the psych testing is included, it means that the investigator can determine whether there are mental health issues involved in the case. If the mother is a narcissist, that will show up. If there are addiction issues, that will show up. All this is great information for the judge to use in determining the custody arrangement. It also gives the PRE more information to make better recommendations.

Not too long ago, I had a case where the mother claimed the father was a compulsive gambler. He would regularly put his gambling habit before the family. When the PRE did psychological testing, sure enough, it was determined that he put his addiction before everything else. This was very helpful in determining the custody schedule.

Judges take this kind of information very seriously when trying to map out parenting time for a divorcing couple.

  • Finally, most PREs (though not all) are PhDs, rather than attorneys or masters of social work (as CFIs are). This extra layer of training does impact how seriously the judge takes the recommendation.

You can see why a PRE carries more weight than a CFI: They don’t have time limitations, they frequently include psychological testing, and most often the evaluator holds an extremely advanced degree.

Each Child has Different Parenting Needs

In addition to professional recommendations, the judge will also take into consideration the age of the child and the maturity of the child. Different children can handle different things; some kids are okay with being away from a parent for a week at a time, others need to see both parents more often.

Remember, the Court is supposed to establish parenting time based solely on what is in the best interest of the children. Sometimes parenting time will include visits but no overnights, sometimes it includes no weekends, or only weekends. Some parents will only be allowed to see their children under professional supervision. It really just depends on the children’s needs.

The outcome of your situation will depend on many different factors. If you are going through divorce and dealing with parenting time disputes, call our office today at 303-449-1873 to set up a complimentary consultation.

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