Colorado Senate Bill 56 – No more automatic right to parenting responsibilities evaluations (PRE) in family law cases?

Senate Bill aims to make sweeping changes to Colorado domestic appointments

Colorado Senate Bill 56, introduced 1-13-12, proposes significant changes to the laws surrounding the appointments of professionals in family law cases.  First the bill requires the following court appointees in domestic relations cases involving children to disclose within 10 days of their appointment any familial, financial, or social relationship with the child, either party, the attorney of record, or the judge:

• child and family investigators (CFI);
• child’s legal representatives (CLR);
• parental responsibilities evaluators (PRE);
• parenting coordinators (PC); and

• parenting decision makers (PM);

If any of the enumerated relationships are reported, the Court may, on its own, terminate the appointment and reappoint another professional.  A party may also  object to the professional based on any such relationship and the Court may terminate and reappoint another professional based on the party’s objection.

More importantly, however, the bill seeks to change the language of  CRS 14-10-127 to make the initial appointment of a parenting responsibilities evaluator discretionary. Currently, 14-10-127 states that the Court SHALL appoint a PRE upon the request of any party to custody cases (a PRE is a licensed professional that specializes in investigating and making recommendations to the Court about parenting responsibilities/custody allocation).   Under current law, the requesting party pays 100% of the up front cost of any such investigation, subject to later reallocation by the Court.   Under the proposed changes, appointment of a PRE would be in the discretion of the Court and the Court could refuse the appointment if it felt, for example, the it was not in the children’s best interests.  This is pretty vague.   The Juvenile Law and Family Law Sections of the Colorado Bar Association oppose this part of the bill.  My belief is that the delay and emotional toll of a PRE is outweighed by a party being able to request a professional set of eyes to view these often  complicated and emotional cases.

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