What is the Role of a Parenting Coordinator?

Silhouette of family with judge's gavel

During and after a separation or divorce, the volatility of the divorce may extend into the realm of parenting. Some parents may be unable to make mutually agreeable decisions for their child without explosive disagreements with their ex-spouse. Parties may disagree over relatively small issues like transportation schedules. However, these small disagreements may escalate to more meaningful matters such as educational or religious decisions. Parenting coordinators step in for cases with high degrees of conflict, to make binding decisions that are in the best interest of the child. They also provide parents with strategies to improve their future communications. Parenting coordinators can be a more effective means of resolving conflicts as opposed to seeking a court’s ruling each time there is a consequential disagreement over the parenting plan. 

What is the role of a parenting coordinator?  

Parenting coordinators are akin to a referee. They help parties resolve parenting disputes that arise during or after a divorce. They first act as a mediator, encouraging the parties to compromise and come to a mutual decision together. However, if parents are not able to reach a resolution, the coordinator will step in and make the decision on behalf of the parents. Such decisions the parenting coordinator may partake in, include:  

  • Small changes or clarifications of the parenting plan 

  • Coordinating exchanges of the child including transportation details  

  • Extracurricular activities  

  • Child’s travel arrangements 

  • Child’s personal possessions 

  • Communications between the child and parents when in the other party’s care 

  • Contact with other family members 

  • Mental health considerations 

  • Religious decisions 

Do I need a parenting coordinator?  

Most separating or separated parties do not require a parenting coordinator. You may wish to elect one yourself, but sometimes the court appoints one when deemed necessary. Parenting coordinators are appointed to parents who have a high degree of conflict, are highly argumentative, or unagreeable when making decisions for the child. 

Who are parenting coordinators?  

Parenting coordinators are third party professionals who complete the necessary training approved by the Administrative Office of the Probate and Family Court. These licensed individuals include: 

  • Attorney (who has a minimum of 4 years of related professional experience) 

  • Psychiatrist 

  • Psychologist 

  • Independent social worker 

  • Marriage and family therapist 

  • Mental health counselor 

How much authority does a parenting coordinator have?  

Parenting coordinators will first attempt to compromise with the parties. If the mediation method proves unsuccessful, the coordinator will then step into the advisory role by making a recommendation. This decision is binding upon the parties unless one of the parties brings the case back before the court and the court enters an order or judgment terminating or altering the recommendation. 

Parenting coordinators ultimately possess a great deal of authority and may have a large impact on your family. Understanding the role parenting coordinators play in your divorce is crucial. Attorney Ryder has prior experience as a court-appointed parenting coordinator. She provides helpful insight to clients who may be considering electing one, or to clients who were assigned a parenting coordinator by the court. 

Click here to read the Probate & Family Court’s standing order governing parenting coordination. 

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