Parenting Plan Enforcement: Parenting Coordinators, Part 2

March 25, 2015

Parenting coordination can be a valuable tool for minimizing the negative impact of a divorce on a child. It is an alternative dispute resolution method used to promote the best interests of the child. Parenting coordinators are often used after a parenting plan has been finalized, if parents are not adhering to the plan. Learn about parenting coordination in this two-part blog entry from William Wallshein.

How to Get a Coordinator

To obtain a  parenting coordinator, either the  parents may engage one of their own accord, or the court may refer the parents to parenting coordination. The court may refer the parties to coordination based on the motion of one party, the joint motion of both parties, or on the court’s own motion. If the parents voluntarily engage a parenting coordinator, the coordinator may choose to go to court and obtain an order clarifying the coordinator’s role.

There are some limits on a couple’s ability to qualify for the parenting coordinator program. If the couple has a history of  domestic violence, the court is not permitted to refer the parents to parenting coordination unless both parties voluntarily consent, after having had the opportunity to consult with an attorney.

Confidentiality

Communications between the parents and the parenting coordinator are generally confidential and may not be introduced as testimony or evidence in court. The  statute lists some exceptions, including if the coordinator is reporting that he or she is no longer able or willing to serve; when the information is relating to a parent’s compliance with the coordination; when the information is needed to prevent future acts of domestic violence, abuse, neglect, or abandonment; or when the parties agree to permit it.

Reporting Emergencies

Parenting coordinators have a responsibility to report some emergency situations:

  • The abuse, neglect, or abandonment of a child,
  • The abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a vulnerable adult, or
  • If the coordinator suspects that a child kidnapping, meaning the removal of a child from the court’s jurisdiction without the proper approvals, is about to occur or has occurred. However, if the coordinator believes that the parent has removed the child to protect against domestic violence, the coordinator may not reveal the location of the parent and child without a court order.

If any of these situations arise, the coordinator is required to immediately inform the court of the situation.

Fees

Parenting coordinators usually charge an hourly rate, which is typically lower than that of an attorney. The rates of coordinators in public sector programs will usually be lower than that of coordinators working in the private sector. Typically, parents each pay half of a parenting coordinator’s fees. However, a different arrangement may be made based on the facts of the case and the income levels of the parents. The parents or the court determine the fee division before a parenting coordinator is hired.

Courts cannot force the use of a parenting coordinator without the parties’ consent unless the parents are financially able to pay. If one parent is indigent, the court may only order parent coordination if either there are public funds available to pay for the coordinator or if the other parent has consented to pay the entire cost.

The well-being of children is of paramount importance to parents, but a divorce can have a negative impact on them. The services and advice of a dedicated family law attorney can help you minimize the difficulties of divorce for your children.