You are a lawyer who is getting calls from your client on every detail of his custody schedule. Or you are a parent, and you and your former spouse can not agree on even the most minor issue of the custody schedule. If you fit into either of these categories, a Custody Parent Coordinator may be very beneficial in the situation.
Some examples would be:
- “The kids were supposed to be home at 7:00 P.M., and it’s 7:35 P.M., you’re late – again – see you in Court.”
- ‘What are you doing here – it’s my turn to come to the basketball practice – quit bothering me or I’ll see you in Court.”
- “How could you leave our child alone at your house while you ran to the grocery store, she’s only 12 – we’ll see what the Judge says about this.”
- “I paid for the school pictures, why did you take them out of his backpack – I’m filing a petition.”
Does any of the above sound familiar? If so, you are not alone. Many families struggle with issues such as these even after they have negotiated or litigated a custody order. Until recently, the typical way to resolve such disputes was to file a petition for contempt or to modify the custody schedule. And, depending upon what county you live in, resolving these issues could take anywhere from four weeks to over one year.
About one year ago, a Bucks County Judge had such a “frequent flyers” case where the parents found themselves in Court time and time again to resolve minor disputes. The Court dismissed a petition that requested that the Court determine how far each parent should drive to a midway point for pick-ups and drop-offs. The Court’s opinion stated that the its function was not to resolve such minor details of a custody situation and that parents should resolve these issues outside of the courtroom.
Since then, the position of a Parent Coordinator has truly emerged. A Parent Coordinator can be a psychologist or a lawyer, as typically these professionals are experienced in dealing with high conflict families. A Parent Coordinator may be appointed by the Court to:
- Assist the parties in resolving issues arising out of the custody order through consultation with and the educaton of the parties;
- If the parties cannot agree upon a resolution of their conflict, then the Parent Coordinator has the Court’s authority to resolve a dispute by issuing a binding decision to the parties.
A Parent Coordinator works directly with the parties outside of the courtroom. In many cases, Parent Coordinators work with clients through e-mail, telephone or in-person conferences. The Coordinator’s function is not as a therapist. Typically, the parties share the cost of the Parent Coordinator in a fair way, oftentimes in proportion to their income. Decisions by a Parent Coordinator are appealable to the Court.
Parent Coordination is a new function of Family Court, and one that is being welcomed by many judges, lawyers, therapists and families. It is a less expensive alternative then proceeding to the courthouse each time a minor dispute arises, and provides a quick result for the parties.