What is a Parenting Coordinator?
- A Parenting Coordinator (PC) is a trained mental health or legal professional with experience in mediation and working with high conflict separated parents. The coordinator assists parents implement their parenting plan and make the necessary changes needed to establish a collaborative parenting partnership. The Parenting Coordinator facilitates resolution of disputes, educates parents about children’s needs, monitors parental behavior and, with prior approval of the parents and/or the court, makes temporary decisions within the scope of the court order or appointment contract
What is the purpose of Parenting Coordination?
- The overall emphasis is to offer children the opportunity to grow in a home environment free from the devastating stress of being caught in the middle of parental conflict. Parenting Coordination combines assessment, education, case management, conflict management and sometimes decision-making functions to help high-conflict parents who have demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to make parenting decisions on their own or comply with parenting agreements and court orders. The family’s progress is monitored to ensure that parents are fulfilling their obligations to their child while complying with the recommendations of the court. The process is intended to assist parents establish and maintain a healthy co-parenting relationship by reducing parental conflict and the risk factors that influence a child’s post-divorce adjustment.
How is a Parenting Coordinator assigned to a case?
- The Parenting Coordinator is usually appointed by the Court and with the consent of the parents. Parents may also volunteer to utilize the services of a PC. Some parents who volunteer stipulate to the appointment. See “For Professionals” for a sample order or stipulation.
Can a Parenting Coordinator make recommendations and temporary decisions for the parents?
- Parenting Coordinators can make recommendations and decisions for parents within the scope of the appointment order. The Parenting Coordinator’s authority is delineated in the court order or by the consent of the parents.
What kinds of issues does a Parenting Coordinator address?
If specified in the court order, a Parenting Coordinator may have authority to resolve the following types of issues:
- Minor changes or clarification of parenting time schedules including vacation, holidays, and temporary variations from the existing parenting plan
- Transitions or exchanges of the children including date, time, place, means of transportation and/or transporter
- Health care management including medical, dental, orthodontic and vision care
- Child-rearing issues
- Psychotherapy or other mental health care including substance abuse assessment or counseling for the children
- Psychological testing or other assessment
- School choice issues
- Extracurricular activity disputes
- Religious observances and education
- Communication between the parents about the children
- Clothing, equipment and personal possessions of the children
- Haircuts, tattoos, ear and body piercing
- Role of and contact with significant others and extended families
- Parenting classes for either or both parents
- Any other issues as agreed by the parents and included in the court order or stipulation appointing the parenting coordinator
Can Parenting Coordinators make decisions that would change legal custody and physical custody from one parent to the other or in other ways, substantially change the parenting plan?
- No, this is beyond the scope of the Parenting Coordinator’s role.
Can a Parenting Coordinator serve in more than one role?
- No, a Parenting Coordinator should not be appointed, or accept a Parenting Coordinator appointment if they have been involved in a case as a guardian ad litem, custody evaluator, therapist, or one parent’s attorney.
Does the Parenting Coordinator perform the same function as a Guardian ad Litem (GAL)?
- No, a GAL is a party to the case, serves as the child’s legal representative, and may make recommendations to the court that are in the child’s best interests. The PC is not a party to the case, does not represent either parent or any of the children. The PC attempts to facilitate resolution of issues for the entire family, and if necessary, makes decisions as authorized by court order. The GAL appointment ends when the case is disposed of in Court. The Parenting Coordinator’s role is on going, within the scope of the particular court order or stipulation.
Does a Parenting Coordinator offer legal advice?
- No, offering legal advice is outside the scope of the Parenting Coordinator’s role.
How is a Parenting Coordinator paid?
- The court order or stipulation usually indicates the allocation of fees paid to the PC. More often than not, fees associated with the parenting coordination process are divided between the parties, taking into consideration the relative incomes of the parties, and giving the Parenting Coordinator authority to reassess allocation of fees depending on the circumstances. The Parenting Coordinator usually explains and discusses with the parents fees, costs and method of payment, in writing and prior to beginning the parenting coordinator process. Since parenting coordination is not considered a therapeutic service, third-party payments are not and should not be accepted.
What happens if the parents disagree with a recommendation or temporary decision made by a Parenting Coordinator?
- The method parents may use to voice their objections to a parenting coordinator’s recommendations are generally outlined in the court order or agreement. In some jurisdictions, a party may file an objection to any recommendation or decision made by a Parenting Coordinator within fifteen days after the recommendation of the PC. The court follows its customary procedures, which may include a review of the objections and responses, and schedules the matter for a hearing de novo or enter other appropriate orders. However, protocols vary based upon the jurisdiction.