By Lori K Shemtob
Some think it’s good, some don’t.
Let me use this opportunity to explain what it is, how it works, and why it may be helpful to parents. By way of a little background, parenting coordination came about via case law in 2008 and went into effect in January 2009. It stayed in effect for many years and then in 2013 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a rule that said there can no longer be parent coordination.
So, any parent coordination orders that were in effect were immediately terminated. Any dispute even minor disputes had to go before a judge for a judicial determination On March 1, 2019, a new rule went into effect which allows for parenting coordination once again.
This rule came about as a result of significant work on the part of lawyers and psychologists who helped formulate it and get it passed.
What is a parent coordinator and why is it helpful to have a parenting coordinator?
Many disputes that parties have with regard to their children can be handled quickly, effectively and economically by having a lawyer or psychologist familiar with the family make a decision when the parents are simply unable to agree.
These disputes aren’t major parenting decisions such as what school the child will go to, what religion the child will be raised in, if the child should have an operation, which home the child will live in, or other major health and educational issues regarding the children.
Instead, parenting coordination is for issues such as:
* Should the child be able to go to a grandparents birthday party?
* Should a child be allowed to participate in a soccer banquet?
* Should a child be permitted to go to a birthday party?
* Should a parent switch weekends so that a child can participate in the family activity of a parents significant other?
* Should clothing to be kept at both houses?
* Should toys go back and forth between houses?
* Should the drop-off and pick up for the children be curbside or at a neutral location?
These are smaller issues that although seem huge to a parent at the time they are not something that a judge needs to hear.
Further many of these issues need immediate resolution and can’t wait for an attorney to prepare and file a petition and for a judge to have a hearing on the issue. In addition, the cost involved can be exorbitant and if one party is extremely litigious it costs the other party a significant amount of money.
How does someone get appointed a parenting coordinator and who are they?
Either a judge can appoint a parenting coordinator or the parties can agree and ask the court to appoint one. The parenting coordinator is required to have a significant amount of training and must be an attorney who has practiced family law for at least five years or a psychologist with the minimum of a master’s degree. The appointment is for a maximum of 12 months although the parties can petition the court to extend the appointment.
The parenting coordinator cannot be forced to testify unless the court orders it. Be careful with this, however, because a court can order it and what goes on in parenting coordination will not necessarily be confidential. Not every case needs a parenting coordinator. There has to be high conflict involved in the case. This is somewhat subjective and some people think their case is high conflict when really it is just stumbling blocks that all cases and parties have. There cannot be a parent coordinator if there has been domestic violence or there’s a protection from abuse order in effect.
A parent coordinator has no right to change legal custody, has no right to change physical custody, has no right to reduce or expand the children’s time, and cannot determine financial issues of the parties
If the parenting coordinator issues a ruling, the ruling must be sent to the court and the parties within two days. If a party doesn’t agree with the decision it still goes into effect, but the party can appeal it and a judge will have a hearing on the issue.
The fees are split equally between the parties for the parenting coordinators time, but the parenting coordinator can change that and re-allocate if they feel one party is abusing the system.
From a practical standpoint, parenting coordination makes sense. It keeps the parties out of court, it keeps the cost down, it helps to resolve issues quickly, and it sometimes serves to deflect the animosity between the parties.
The divorce and family law attorneys of Shemtob Draganosky Taylor can guide you through all of your divorce matters. Contact our family lawyers in Montgomery County at 215-542-2105 for a confidential discussion.