When Colorado parents can not agree on a custody arrangement for their children, they may ask the court to appoint a custody evaluator. Parental responsibility evaluators investigate the fitness of parents and make recommendations to the court based on their evaluation.
Recently, critics of the system have called the competency of these evaluators into question.
Criticism of parental evaluators
Critics of the role of PREs in determining custody claim that there is widespread evidence that evaluators reach conclusions about a parent’s parenting ability based on pre-conceived notions that the investigator does not fully investigate. This results in recommendations based on bias and assumptions about a parent’s fitness that are not backed by proof.
Problems with the system
Investigators allege that the problems with Colorado’s PREs arise from a lack of oversight and accountability. The courts seal evaluators’ reports unless a judge releases them and keep complaints against an evaluator’s license confidential unless the Department of Regulatory Agencies determines their validity. DORA does not explain its reasoning when it dismisses complaints.
Critics also blame problems on the increased influence PREs gained when the Colorado Supreme Court barred child and family investigators from performing psychological testing. PREs, who must hold licenses as mental health professionals, can conduct this testing which places their services in higher demand.
These problems have led some state lawmakers to introduce legislation to require better training and standards for evaluating PREs and to require judges to undergo domestic violence training. Some members of the judiciary oppose this legislation, saying it is unconstitutional.
Because of the impact PRE reports can have on custody cases, it is important for divorcing parents to be aware of these issues before requesting a PRE in their custody cases.