What is Parent Coordination?
Parent Coordination is a voluntary process that uses the assistance of a neutral third party (Parenting Coordinator) to help parents in high-conflict custody situations make decisions that are in the best interest of the children. The Parenting Coordinator assists parents in establish a protocol for productive problem solving, and in some instances can be empowered by the parties to make a final and binding determination on particular disagreements. The Parenting Coordinator handles all manner of custody related issues, such as establishing educational or therapy plan for a special needs child, resolving disputes about parenting time and holiday schedules, pickup times and locations, or telephone access. The Parenting Coordinator works together with parents who have shown an inability or unwillingness to agree to decisions that are in the best interests of the children.
Why use a Parenting Coordinator?
The unfortunate reality that most parents face after the completion of a divorce is that although the court case is over they must still communicate with each other on a regular basis. It can be very difficult for parties who have just gone through a very contentious legal battle to be able to come together and make decisions that are in their child(ren)’s best interest, and a parenting coordinator can act as an intermediary between the parties in order to facilitate healthy and productive communication and make sure that the child’s best interest is always the main focus of any decision making.
A Parenting Coordinator can also be a cost effective alternative to seeking court intervention every time there is a disagreement over a parenting issue. Litigation is an adversarial process and repeatedly going to court on modifications and contempt actions can further damage already difficult relationships. The Parent Coordination process is also much less time consuming and more informal than litigation. The Probate and Family Courts estimate that a Complaint for Modification takes approximately eight (8) months from start to finish, but that is just and estimate and it can increase substantially based on the court’s schedule and any delays from either party. Most parties typically don’t want to wait eight (8) months, or even one (1) month to resolve an issue that relates to their child. The Parenting Coordinator process is much quicker and can provide the parties, and more importantly the child with a resolution much faster.
The Cost of Parent Coordination
My hourly rate is $250.00 per hour, and a typical Parent Coordination takes between 5-10 hours of work to investigate and resolve an issue, which includes telephone calls, e-mails and in-person meetings with the participants, but may also include contact with the children, school officials, therapists, etc. That means a resolution to a scheduling conflict could be accomplished for between $1,000.00 and $2,000.00, which is significantly less expensive than if the parties were each to hire their own lawyers, filing fees, the wait for an available court date and the time off work the parties would have to incur. (The average cost of a litigated Complaint for Contempt or Complaint for Modification is between $3,000 - $7,000 for only one of the parties.
Often the Parenting Coordinator fees are split between the parties. The parties will sign a contract with the Parenting Coordinator, and the fees may also be specified by stipulation of the parties that becomes a court order. Additionally, Parenting Coordinator’s typically include a clause in their fee agreements that the fees may be reallocated to one party or the other if one of the parties is not acting in good faith or if one person uses a disproportionate amount of the Parenting Coordinator’s time.
How to get a Parenting Coordinator
Parenting Coordination is traditionally a voluntary process, although some judges will include it in their court orders, so typically the parties must agree to engage the services of a Parenting Coordinator. The agreement is typically memorialized in an agreement signed by the parties and made an order of the court. The parties can determine whether or not they want empower the Parenting Coordinator to make binding decisions, how they want to split the fees for services, and on what type of issues they would like the Parenting Coordinator’s help with. It’s important to note that even if the parties agree that the Parenting Coordinator’s recommendations are binding, the participants still have the ability to appeal the Parenting Coordinator's decision. Please note that the Parenting Coordinator's decisions are binding until 1) the Court makes a ruling to the contrary; and 2) the participants come to a mutual agreement.
If you think Parent Coordination might be right for you please give us a call today and schedule a 30 minute free consult.