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This is Todd Burnham, the Founding Partner of Burnham Law, and an experienced family law lawyer with a superb record. This blog details two of the experts that you can hire in your divorce case.
CFI stands for Child and Family Investigator.
PRE stands for Parental Responsibilities Evaluator.
The CFI is the tip of the iceberg.
The CFI is a flat fee, so you are not going to get a great deal of nuance, but if you have a pretty solid case and there are glaring issues, then a CFI is great! If you think you have a slam dunk case, you might be tempted to skip the CFI. Don’t! In a case like that, you must view the CFI as an insurance policy, a guarantee that the court isn’t going to get it wrong.
Everyone knows that the vast majority of the iceberg is hidden underneath the water. That is where the PRE comes in. A PRE is going to cost you a lot more than a CFI, maybe 4 times as much, but you’re going to get a lot more from them. The PRE is going to assess the psychological pieces. They do mental health evaluations and psychological testing.
Both the CFI and the PRE interview the children, but the PRE paints a much more detailed picture. The PRE goes in-depth, measures the harmful, nuanced pieces of parenting like psychological abuse, mental health issues, narcissism.
These are cases that a CFI is not qualified to deal with.
Narcissists can do a really good Jekyll and Hyde impression. In public, they can be very boisterous and friendly and seem like great people, but at home, they are not the same person. They can be so good at this act that people on the outside find it hard to believe they could be anything other than great people. Where narcissists often trip up, is remembering what persona they use in different situations. They can get caught when they send out incredibly aggressive and in your face emails or texts.
This is a scenario where a PRE is needed. A CFI doesn’t really look beneath the surface, so a narcissist is going to be able to maintain their act long enough to fool them. Not so with a PRE.
If there is any conflict whatsoever, I am always a proponent of at least getting a CFI. This sets the baseline. When a report comes out, and the recommendations or the evaluations done by the CFI are put on paper, that’s your benchmark moving forward. Anytime there are any modifications or changes, you can refer to that CFI report.
If you do not have that baseline and you’re starting from scratch, then all the things that happened leading up to this point are just memories, there’s nothing concrete, there’s no report. The power and value of the experts cannot be overstated!
One of the most important pieces in a custody case is the decision to get experts and to retain experts. Hiring those experts, getting the documentation, getting metrics, and setting that baseline, that’s putting yourself in a position to succeed.