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Fact Based Inquiry

Fact Based Inquiry

When there are concerns about a child’s safety or when it seems the child’s voice should be heard, the adult parties to a case may be asked to speak with the Family Court Liaison about participating in a Fact Based Inquiry or Fact Finding Inquiry (also called an FBI or FFI). The authority for the Court to order these investigations is in the California Family Code, Section §3183b.

Fact Based Inquiry General Information

  • An FBI is an investigation by the Family Court Liaison into serious safety allegations and/or to get input from the children and report the information back to the court.
  • The facts the liaison finds during the inquiry aren’t confidential. It may be reported to the court in writing or verbally.
  • The investigation must be agreed upon by the parties for the Court to order a Fact Based Inquiry.
  • The Family Court Liaison usually meets with the parties during court to determine what the investigation will look at and review. This is called the “scope” of the investigation.
  • The Family Court Liaison may contact Child Protective Services (CPS) or other agencies for more information during court or may do so once the investigation is ordered.
  • The investigation could include any of the following, according to the defined scope of the investigation.
    • Interviews of each parent, other family members, and witnesses
    • Review of evidence provided by the parties and in the court file
    • Drug or alcohol testing results of the parties
    • Review of the parents’ homes
    • Observation of the parents and children together
    • Interviews of the children
    • Contact with other professionals (teachers, therapists, etc.)
  • The report does not evaluate the parties, their parenting plan, or make recommendations. The report the Liaison writes only gives facts from a neutral professional to the court.
    • There is a fee for the investigation; the cost depends on the amount of work and travel involved. The judicial officer determines how much of the fee each party pays for the investigation and makes each party’s fee part of the order.
    • Long FBI is $700, total
    • Short FBI is $350, total
    • Parties can request payment plans if they are unable to pay the whole amount up front
    • The parties pay the fee to the court (not to the liaison). The parties are not hiring a private investigator.
    • The fee is for the investigation process. The investigation and the report that is produced is for the court’s information and isn’t done on behalf of either party.

Fact Based Inquiry Process

  • At the hearing, the Court asks parties to meet with the Family Court Liaison.
  • The parties meet with the Liaison, together, or separately (mandatory in cases of domestic violence unless waived by the protected party) and discuss their concerns. Sometimes attorneys are present at the meeting with the parties, but not always.
  • The parties determine if they agree to have a Fact Based Inquiry.
  • The parties and the Liaison decide on a scope of the investigation.
  • The parties may negotiate a temporary parenting plan during their meeting.
  • The Liaison meets with any attorneys of the parties to review what agreements were made during the meeting.
  • The parties, their attorneys, and Liaison return to court for the Liaison to report the result of the session.
  • If parties agree, the FBI, the scope of the FBI, and the allocation of payment are ordered and a new court date to review the report is set.
  • Parties will receive an FBI Packet to complete:
    • The packet may be given to the parties in a paper form at the courthouse
    • The packet may be emailed to the parties as a fillable PDF
    • The parties may be directed to the Court’s Website for a link to the packet
  • The Liaison receives the parties’ completed packets.
  • The Liaison contacts the parties and investigates.
  • The Liaison sends a report to the FCS Clerk for processing.
  • The parties receive a copy of the report via email or in-person ahead of the review court date/hearing
  • The parties attend a hearing to review the FBI Report

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