Remember earlier this year when I wrote about the Superior Court’s ruling that a party has a right to a de novo hearing for a custody coordinator’s decision? Well, forget all of that. As of today, April 23rd, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court adopted Rule 1915.11-1 which states that parent coordinators are no more and the only judges have the authority to make decisions in child custody cases. The new Rule reads as follows:
Only judges may make decisions in child custody cases. Masters and hearing officers may make recommendations to the court. Courts shall not appoint any other individual to make decisions or recommendations or alter a custody order in child custody cases. Any order appointing a parenting coordinator shall be deemed vacated on the date this rule becomes effective (Editor’s Note: May 23, 2013). Local rules and administrative orders authorizing the appointment of parenting coordinators also shall be deemed vacated on the date this rule becomes effective.
The role of the parent coordinator was established and upheld by the Superior Court in the Yates decision in 2008. The revised Rule, which was adopted by the Supreme Court upon the recommendation of the Domestic Relations Procedural Rules Committee and after an opportunity for public comment, supersedes the case law and renders null and void any existing parent coordinator order.
So ends the quasi-judicial role of parent coordinators. Whether this results in an uptick of contempt and custody modification petitions remains to be seen, but as it was so eloquently put by the (clearly exasperated) trial judge in the A. H. vs. C.M. case (in which the Superior Court upheld the right to a de novo review of a parent coordinator’s decision) judges may need to brace themselves to deal with an increased amount of "some talent show communication[s].”