Parenting plans are binding court orders instructing divorced or separated parents regarding their rights and duties toward their children. Parents do not always comply with the requirements of a parenting plan. Parenting coordination is an alternative dispute resolution method that is used after the finalization of a divorce if the parents are not adhering to the terms of their parenting plan. If your spouse is not cooperating with your parenting plan, an attorney can help you ensure that it is enforced.Purposes of Parenting Coordination
Parenting coordination is a way to resolve issues regarding children and parenting plans outside of court. In coordination, a parenting coordinator facilitates communication between the parents, protects familial relationships, and works to minimize harm to the child resulting from conflict between the parents. Parenting coordinators are licensed physicians, attorneys, or mental health professionals, or family law mediators certified by the Florida Supreme Court. They also must complete further training and certification.Duties
A parenting coordinator’s main purpose is to help resolve disputes between the parents. They may also provide parenting education and make recommendations to the parents to promote the child’s best interests. Parenting coordinators may also have some decision-making authority for the child and the parenting plan if both the parents and the court give prior consent. In that case, if the parents cannot reach an agreement on an issue, the coordinator’s decisions will be binding and have the force of court orders.
A parenting coordinator’s duties may include:
- Meeting with the child and parents;
- Talking with teachers, psychologists, and others;
- Reviewing psychological evaluations;
- Mediating visitation;
- Teaching parenting skills;
- Making recommendations to the court;
- Representing the child’s opinions and viewpoints in court; and
- Helping the parents create a parenting plan, if one does not already exist.
Parents may hire a parenting coordinator of their own accord, or the court may refer them to coordination. If they voluntarily hire a parenting coordinator, the coordinator can go to court to have his or her role clarified in a court order. If there is a history of domestic violence, the court may not refer the parents to coordination unless both parents consent.Confidentiality
Generally, any communications between the parents and the coordinator are confidential and cannot be used in court. But there are some exceptions:
- Preventing future domestic violence;
- When the parties agree to allow the communications to be put in evidence;
- When the information is about a parent’s compliance with coordination; or
- If the coordinator is reporting that he or she is no longer willing or able to serve.
Parenting coordinators must immediately report certain emergency situations to the court, including:
- The abuse, neglect, or abandonment of a child;
- The abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a vulnerable adult; or
- When the coordinator believes that a child kidnapping is about to happen or has happened.
Coordinators typically charge an hourly rate. Generally, each parent pays half the fee, but they can make a different arrangement if the facts of the case or disparate income levels warrant a change. The court cannot force the use of a coordinator if the parents cannot pay. If one parent is indigent, the court may order coordination only if public funds are available or if the other parent is willing to foot the whole bill.
If you are having difficulty with a co-parent who is not complying with a parenting plan, an attorney can review your options. Please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for an initial consultation.