The Role of a Parenting Coordinator in Your Custody Dispute
Coming to terms on a custody plan and sticking to an agreement requires a lot of planning, commitment, and compromise. But the stresses of a divorce can easily weigh on these agreements and bar parents from resolving disputes cordially. In order to avoid having parents take every matter to court, Pennsylvania utilizes parenting coordinators to process high-conflict cases.
Who Is a Parenting Coordinator?
Parenting coordinators are court-appointed professionals who help parents address minor custody issues that may conflict with a final custody order. In high-conflict custody agreements, parents may feel the need to take every matter before a judge, but under 231 Pa. Code § 1915.11-1, family law courts can utilize parenting coordinators to mediate and resolve minor issues. A coordinator may make recommendations about how parents can compromise on disputes without forcing them to present their case before a judge.
Issues that parenting coordinators assist with include:
- Adjusting a custodial schedule for special events or circumstances
- Coordinating childcare arrangements
- Exchanging information between parents regarding a child’s health, schooling, or mental health
- Coordinating custody around court-ordered services or programs, such as therapy, anger management, alcohol/drug treatment, etc.
- School disputes, except for school selection
- Arranging custodial transitions between households
What Can a Parenting Coordinator NOT Do?
Parenting coordinators do have their limits, however, and cannot make final decisions about a custody order that would change parenting time, custody rights, or child support. These include:
- Changing custody rights, including legal and physical custody orders
- Reducing or increasing parenting time
- Changing a child’s residence
- Approving or denying relocation petitions
- Changing child support payments
- Making decisions about a child’s health, education, or religion
- Other issues that a judge deems out of the coordinator’s authority
In addition, if a coordinator cannot help resolve a dispute, they can forward their findings to the court to help a judge make a decision in the matter.
When Are Parenting Coordinators Assigned to a Case?
Once a judge has issued a final custody order, they can decide to appoint a parenting coordinator to resolve any future issues in your case. Not every custody agreement involves parenting coordinators, and judges typically reserve them for high-conflict cases. A parenting coordinator must be paid by both parents on an hourly rate and may only be assigned to a case for a maximum of 12 months, unless the parents request an extension.
You may also file a motion for a parenting coordinator with your family law court if you feel that a coordinator could help with high-conflict disputes. This request must be approved by a judge, and you will need to pay all associated fees. You may encounter difficulties if the other parent disagrees with your petition.
Assigning a parenting coordinator to a family law case will also come down to your county court and its specific rules. We encourage you to read up on the parenting coordination rules for Montgomery and Chester Country to better understand your options.
Can a Parenting Coordinator Benefit My Case?
Parenting coordinators are highly trained individuals who have been certified by a Pennsylvania family law court to assist with high-conflict child custody cases. Under Pennsylvania state law, parenting coordinators must have:
- At least five years’ experience practicing family law; OR
- At least five years of professional post-degree experience in psychiatry, psychology, counseling, family therapy, or other comparable behavioral or social science field; AND
- Specialized training or certification by the American Psychological Association, Pennsylvania Psychological Association, American Bar Association, Pennsylvania Bar Association, Pennsylvania Bar Institute, or American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.
Based on their skills and experience, a parenting coordinator may be able to act as a tie-breaker in your custody dispute and help you resolve certain issues without having to go through the court. However, we encourage you to speak to a Montgomery County family law attorney first to discuss your options. Parenting coordinators have their limits, and the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C. can provide in-depth knowledge about your case. Our lead attorney has more than 25 years of experience in high-conflict custody cases and can explain your rights in a Chester County or Montgomery County family law court.
To go over your case in a free consultation, call us at (610) 645-0100.