• Annmarie Baranik

What does a Parenting Coordinator Do?

Updated: Jul 8, 2020

Parent coordinator - If you’re in the middle of a high-conflict divorce, the court may appoint a parenting coordinator to work with you and your ex spouse. "A Parenting Coordinator is a qualified neutral person appointed by the court, or agreed to by the parties, to facilitate the resolution of day to day parenting issues that frequently arise within the context of family life when parents are separated. The court may appoint a Parenting Coordinator at any time during a case involving minor children after a parenting plan has been established when the parties cannot resolve these issues on their own. The Parenting Coordinator’s goal is to aid parties in monitoring the existing parenting plan, reducing misunderstandings, clarifying priorities, exploring possibilities for compromise and developing methods of communication that promote collaboration in parenting. The Parenting Coordinator’s role is to facilitate decision making between the parties or make such recommendations, as may be appropriate, when the parties are unable to do so. One primary goal of the Parenting Coordinator is to empower parents to develop and utilize effective parenting skills so that they can resume the parenting and decision-making role without the need for outside intervention. The Parenting Coordinator should provide guidance and direction to the parties with the primary focus on the best interests of the child by reducing conflict and fostering sound decisions that aid positive child development." ( WIKIPEDIA definition)

A PC -parenting coordinator is a relatively new practice used in some US states to manage ongoing issues in high-conflict divorce and custody matters. They sometimes use a professional psychologist or a lawyer /mediator assigned by the Court ( or minor’s counsel) . There are 10 states as of May 2011 that have passed legislation regarding parenting coordinators: Colorado (since 2005), Idaho (2002), Louisiana (2007), New Hampshire (2009), North Carolina (2005), Oklahoma (2001), Oregon (2002), Texas (2005), and Florida (2009). Legislation has been pending in Massachusetts for many years without significant progress.

In September 2014, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the trial judge lacked the power to appoint the parenting coordinator without consent of both parties, and that the broad authority given to the parenting coordinator by the trial judge constituted "an unlawful delegation of judicial authority."Consequently, the Supreme Judicial Court vacated the appointment order.

Parenting Coordinators are usually of two types: licensed professionals in a mental health or pastoral field of counseling, or attorneys/mediators who are in good standing with their state's Bar Association. The parenting coordinator usually meets with both parties regularly, receives day-to-day questions and complaints about any aspect of a party's conduct, and makes recommendations to the parties. These recommendations effectively become obligatory for parents to follow because the Parental Coordinator can later testify in court about the non-compliance. PC's have an extremely wide range of issues they can decide on parents' relations with their children, while your parenting coordinator won’t decide which home your children will live in, he or she will help you come up with visitation times that meet your kids’ needs. Additionally, a parenting coordinator can make decisions regarding:

· Where kids can go with their parents

· What activities kids can do with their parents

· Non-urgent medical care options

· Temporary variation from custody orders

· Other issues that relate to the children’s best interests

When you’re in the middle of a high-conflict divorce, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s really important: your kids’ well-being. When a judge notices that you’re embroiled in a battle that includes verbal abuse, extreme anger and mistrust, physical aggression or difficulty communicating when it comes to your kids, he or she might decide that a parenting coordinator can benefit your family.

Parent coordinators are appointed to a set amount of time, and if neither parents asks for the court to extend that time, then the appointment ends. A parent coordinator can also be removed if the judge approves the removal after the agreement of both parties, or if either party or the parent coordinator makes a motion to the court and the judge approves a Parental Time Modification Order.

Parental coordinators charge parents involved for the time they have spent with the children according to the rates they have established as mental health or law professionals. Parents normally split the charges according to their court order. Legal Angels does a mediation approach with trained monitors under the guidance of an attorney.

If either party does not agree with the PC recommendations, then he/she can file a motion with the court to make a decision on the disputed issue. Either party can also ask the court to appoint a new PC to the case, but has to provide sufficient evidence to convince the court that valid reasons exist.

The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (www.afccnet.org) has published guidelines and standards for Parental Coordination and Custody Evaluations

Over the years, judges began to make numerous appointments to attempt to, if not rid the courts, at least create a buffer for parenting and visitation issues that arose daily/weekly/monthly in high conflict divorce and post-divorce matters. Sometimes the professional was called a parent coordinator, other times it was a therapeutic monitor, a mediator, a parenting coach, etc. The role was generally the same, that is, to present these issues to a neutral third party that had either a legal or mental health background, or both, to assist the parties work out the differences and in many instances, make recommendations if they could not. A guide to have them try to learn to co-parent along with classes. Picking the right PC is the key. If you and your spouse cannot do it, a court just might.

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