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Legal Questions about Parenting Coordinator

During a divorce process when parents are not able to agree on child custody or visitation rights, a parenting coordination is often assigned to the case. A parenting coordinator can either be appointed by the court or agreed upon by both parents. A parenting coordinator has the right to make suggestions in the court during the divorce process, and many times the judge makes decisions based upon the best interest of the child and the evidence that the parenting coordinator presents during the case. Read below the most commonly asked questions on parenting coordination.

What is a parenting coordinator?

A parenting coordinator is used in some states to resolve on-going issues with regard to child custody and visitation rights. This is usually a professional psychologist or a lawyer assigned by the court. The parenting coordinator usually meets parents on a regular basis, receives day-to-day questions and complaints regarding either party’s behavior, and makes suggestions to the parties. When a parenting coordinator makes suggestions, they prefer that the parents follow up and adhere to the suggestion. Legally, failure to act on the suggestions of a parenting coordinator could be used against either party in court.

Which states have passed a law on parenting coordinators?

As of May 2011, there are ten states that have passed laws pertaining to parenting coordinators. These include: Colorado since 2005, Idaho 2002, Louisiana 2007, New Hampshire 2009, North Carolina 2005, Oklahoma 2001, Oregon 2002, Texas 2005, Massachusetts and Florida since 2009. In most of these states there is a law that requires the court to order parenting plans to allow the minimum amount of parenting time and access with a the parent not receiving primary custody. According to the laws of many states and the AFCC guidelines, the parenting coordinator cannot change a court order. Only minor changes can be made with respect to parenting time or conditions including vacations, holidays, and temporary modification from the previous parenting plan that was allowed.

What authority does a parenting coordinator have?

Parenting coordinators have many different concerns when deciding on the parents’ relationship with their children. The scope of a parenting coordinator's role can include but is not limited to: • Limiting the parents to where they can and cannot go during their daily visit with the child, and what activities are allowed. • Preventing parents from talking about certain topics with their children. • Receiving complaints from either parent on almost every subject about the other parent’s behavior during the past visit, and making decisions that the parties must follow. These could be about issues like sports that a child can attend, friends they can visit, religious services they can attend, the kind of food a parent can provide, and more. • Deciding, when the parents do not agree, on a non-urgent medical condition pertaining to the child. • Deciding when, where and how long the family and friends of the non-custodial parent can visit the child. • Reporting any suspected child abuse to the Child Protective Services. • And many more decisions considering the child best of interest. If either parent does not agree with what the parenting coordinator has decided, then they can file a motion with the court to make a decision on the undecided issue. Either parent can ask to have a new parenting coordinator appointed to the case, but they would have to show enough proof to convince the court that this is a valid reason to remove the current parenting coordinator.

Can a parent obtain a parental coordination without having a lawyer?

A parent can file in court to resolve custody or visitation issues. The judge can assign a parenting coordinator or, after filing, both parents can agree on a mutually agreeable parenting coordinator and submit a consent order to the judge. If the parents are willing to put the time and research into the matter, many times they may not need a lawyer. However, if custody and visitation is involved, then it is often a good option to have representation by a lawyer.

Can a parenting coordinator make suggestions using the child’s therapist, when the therapist has never met with the child’s father?

Therapists can testify in the court about their impressions and suggestions. However, the other parent can try to deem therapist's testimony biased, untrustworthy or incorrect if the therapist has never spoken with the child’s father, and has made decisions without having all the required information. The rights that a parenting coordinator has can be confusing at times. Some may want to know the rights a parenting coordinator has, or how to appoint a parenting coordinator during their divorce case. Only some states recognize the law for parenting coordinators and even in those states the laws may vary.
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