Parenting Coordinators in Child Custody Disputes

In Child Custody by Elizabeth Stephenson

Too state things mildly, child custody cases can get heated. It isn’t difficult to explain. First, parents love and cherish their children and want to maximize their time with them. Second, the interpersonal conflict between parents adds an additional layer of emotional complexity, as the reasons and dynamics that caused their separation become projected into legal proceedings involving their children.

Sometimes parents simply cannot navigate a custody dispute with just their lawyers and a judge. In fact, a judge sometimes needs help in reaching a decision and may ask for help from a neutral third party professionals, called a “parenting coordinator”.

How is a Parenting Coordinator Appointed?

A court can appoint a parenting coordinator at any time during child custody proceedings so long as the parties agree to the appointment. However, courts may also appoint a parenting coordinator without the consent of the parties if the court makes a finding that the appointment is in the child’s best interest, that the case is a high conflict case, and that the parties can afford to pay for the coordinator.

What is a High Conflict Case?

General Statutes Section 50 defined a high conflict case as one in which the parties have demonstrated an “ongoing pattern” of at least one of the following:

  1. “Excessive litigation”;
  2. “Anger and distrust”;
  3. “Verbal abuse”;
  4. “Physical aggression or threats of physical aggression”;
  5. “Difficulty communicating about and cooperating in the care of the minor children”; or
  6. “Conditions that in the discretion of the court warrant the appointment of a parenting coordinator.”

What are the Duties of a Parenting Coordinator?

If parents agree to the appointment of a parenting coordinator, they may limit the scope of what the parenting coordinator is supposed to examine and decide. Otherwise, a court has the discretion to bestow upon a coordinator the following duties:

  • To identify disputed issues;
  • To reduce misunderstandings;
  • To clarify priorities;
  • To explore possibilities for compromise;
  • To develop methods of collaboration in parenting;
  • To comply with the court’s order of custody, visitation, or guardianship; or
  • To address any other issues identified to the court.

Significantly, the parenting coordinator is not a therapist for the family and may not provide professional counseling to the parents or the child.

Contact New Direction Family Law  

Child custody issues can become highly conflicted, very quickly. Your children mean the world to you and we appreciate this. Let us help you fight for your legal rights. At New Direction Family Law, our attorneys take pride in providing compassionate, effective legal advocacy. We serve clients throughout Wake, Johnston, Durham and surrounding counties. Call New Direction Family Law today at (919) 719-3470 to schedule a consultation or visit us online at our website.