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 (PC) assigned to a case?
The Parenting Coordinator is usually appointed by the Court with the consent of the parents. Parents may also volunteer to utilize the services of a PC.
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. (To be done by a third-party)
Psychological testing or other assessment. (To be done by a third-party)
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 issues
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.
Do Parenting Coordinators offer legal advice?
No, offering legal advice is outside the scope of the Parenting Coordinator’s role.
What is the cost and what does it include?
The cost of Parenting Coordination is $625/per co-parent (Total $1250). This includes a one-year subscription for each co-parent to Our Family Wizard, a third-party co-parenting messaging app for use on smart device and/or computer; one individual session with the Parenting Coordinator, and one joint session with the co-parents and the Parenting Coordinator. The remainder is placed in a retainer escrow, which will be used as a drawdown source. Drawdowns will occur in the event that the Parenting Coordinator is forced to intervene on high-conflict correspondence on Our Family Wizard. The cost for each intervention required is $37.50 and will be either deducted from the offending party's retainer, or split between the co-parents in a no-fault intervention. Any sessions that occur or are required or requested after the first individual sessions and the joint session will cost $125 for each co-parent. Retainers must be reimpressed by co-parents in $200 increments once that party's escrow has reached a balance of $75.
How are Parenting Coordinators 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.
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. Responses may be filed within fifteen days after an objection is served. 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, the protocol used by jurisdictions vary.