Divorced parents often remain in conflict, even for years after the divorce is finalized. Sometimes this animosity fuels years of “post-decree” battling over custodial issues. In many high conflict cases, a judge would appoint a third-party, called a parenting coordinator, to resolve ongoing disputes and provide guidance to the court. Judges relied heavily on these parenting coordinators, as they have likely spent more time in the case. Although often derided by litigants and attorneys as quasi-judicial officers with too much power, parenting coordinators can also streamline conflict resolution.
Following a rule change however, judges are now prohibited from appointing parenting coordinators without the agreement of both parties. This rule change only applies to new appointments after January 1, 2015. The rule change is also important because, although it limits a judge’s ability to appoint a parenting coordinator, it actually increases the power given to parenting coordinators. In the past, when a coordinator made a recommendation, both litigants would have an opportunity to challenge the decision and have a hearing. This often meant that parties had to go through two processes, one with the parenting coordinator to get recommendations, and then an additional dispute over whether the Court should adopt the recommendations.
Under the new rule, if the parties stipulate to utilizing a parenting coordinator, the recommendations of that coordinator are virtually impossible to dispute – it is almost as if the parties can choose to elect a parenting coordinator as their judge. Practically speaking this means that less parenting coordinators are being appointed (as the judges can no longer do so in many cases), but in those cases with a parenting coordinator the litigation process is greatly simplified.
As a parenting coordinator, I have seen the impact of the new rule. Although it appears to have drastically limited the number of appointments, I believe that in many cases this is a negative result because most litigants will never have a judge who can spend the same amount of time in a case as a parenting coordinator. Time will tell whether this rule change is a benefit to parents. If you are in a high conflict situation, consult with an experienced family law attorney about whether or not a parenting coordinator may be the right answer for your case. Call me at (480) 833-1113 with any questions you may have, I will be glad to help you.