In Massachusetts, child custody and parenting disputes are all too common. Whether parents are going through a difficult divorce, or whether they are unmarried but trying unsuccessfully to peacefully co-parent their children, parenting disputes take a toll on everyone involved, especially the children. In high-conflict custody situations, parents may seek the assistance of a parent coordinator to facilitate the resolution of outstanding disputes related to the children. The ultimate goal of the parent coordinator is to make decisions (and help parents make decisions) that are in the child(ren)’s best interests.
Use of a parenting coordinator generally is a voluntary process. However, some judges strongly encourage that parties employ the assistance of a parenting coordinator before they will make final orders in a case.
The role of a parenting coordinator
The role of a parenting coordinator in any given situation may be as narrow or expansive as the parties wish. Typically, the coordinator acts as a neutral, knowledgeable and (hopefully) effective referee and/or mediator to help parents reach common ground on any issues regarding the children. There are a number of issues a parenting coordinator may deal with, including parenting schedules, the establishment of an educational or therapy plan for special needs children, and specific scheduling details (e.g., pick up times and locations, phone access, etc.). In many cases, the coordinator serves to establish a protocol and process for the parents to follow when problems and disputes arise. Additionally, if both parties agree, a parenting coordinator’s determination regarding specific issues may be final and binding.
Note: Even if the parties agree that a parenting coordinator’s determinations are final and binding, the parties retain the ability to appeal the determinations to the court. However, in these cases, the parenting coordinator’s decisions are “the law” and must be followed unless and until 1) the court rules that the decisions may be vacated; and 2) the parties reach a new, mutual agreement regarding the outstanding issues.
Why a parenting coordinator may be a good idea
Similar to mediators in the divorce process, parenting coordinators are very helpful in delivering a calm, neutral voice of reason to parties unable or unwilling to reach an agreement related to the children. The use of a coordinator may eliminate the need for protracted, contentious, and expensive litigation in court. As difficult as it is for some parents to come together after a nasty divorce or breakup, a parenting coordinator may help bridge the gap in facilitating productive and healthy communication regarding the children. The best interests of the child(ren) should always be at the forefront of parenting matters; and parenting coordinators are educated and trained to recognize these interests.
Attorney Rosanne Klovee has experience working with parenting coordinators in many types of parenting cases. Contact her today to discuss your specific situation.