February 21, 2013
-- After a divorce, parents who are unable to successfully communicate and make decisions regarding their minor child(ren) can jointly engage a Parenting Coordinator (PC) to resolve their child-related issues. --
BOSTON, MA, February 21, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- In Massachusetts, a judge does not have the authority to appoint a Parenting Coordinator unless both parties agree to the appointment and scope of Parenting Coordinator's authority. Usually, a PC is a mental health professional or an attorney with experience in family law.
Often times, the Parenting Coordinator will start the process by meeting the parents either together or separately, depending on the degree of conflict. Many PCs limit their communications with parents by email. This can save the parties time and money, since Parenting Coordinators are paid by the hour; a fee usually shared equally between the parents. Also, written communications, such as email, provides everyone with a clear record of how an issue unfolded.
At the time the Parenting Coordinator is identified and retained by the parties, an agreement for services is usually executed, which will outline the Parenting Coordinator's duties, policies, and the fees associated therewith. Oftentimes the parties will enter into a court stipulation which will state the scope of the Parenting Coordinator's decision making authority. Upon engagement of this process, many PCs may wish to meet with the child(ren) and other collateral sources in order to gather important information regarding the family. However, this is discretionary, as many PCs choose to remain within the limited scope of the court ordered parenting schedule and focus their role on implementation of that schedule. Sometimes PCs are allowed to have access to reports of court investigators, known as the Guardian Ad Litem (GAL). Again, each case is different and whether a PC review of a GAL report is appropriate or necessary depends on the facts of each case and judicial allowance.
After the Parenting Coordinator is retained, the parties can send the PC questions and points of disagreement with respect to the child(ren) and the PC should consider all of the facts before making recommendations to the parties. It is always prudent for the parties to communicate with each other first and attempt their own resolution to child related issues prior to submitting the issues to the PC for resolution. By doing so, the parents will save the cost for engaging the PC on minor issues or at least document an attempt to resolve the matter with the other parent before engaging the PC. The latter is important if one of the parents continues to act unreasonably or intentionally obstructs the parenting process. If this occurs regularly, it may be possible to request a Court to order the uncooperative parent pay for some/all of the attorney fees/Parenting Coordinator fees incurred by the more reasonable parent.
It is important that the parties are knowledgeable of their court order/stipulation that addresses the appointment of the Parenting Coordinator. This court order should specify the scope of the Parenting Coordinator's role, whether the recommendations of the Parenting Coordinator are binding on the parties, and the process for terminating the services of the Parenting Coordinator or retaining an alternate Parenting Coordinator. Also, this court order should address the recourse of a party who disagrees with the Parenting Coordinator's recommendation. Usually, the party who disagrees with the PC recommendation and refuses to comply with implementation must petition the court to overturn the PC's decision. However, if the Court agrees with the recommendation of the PC, then the parent who sought to overturn the PC decision may also be ordered to pay the other parent's attorney fees and Parenting Coordinator fees for this process. As with any profession, some parenting coordinators are better than others. It is always helpful to consult with an attorney to review the facts of your case in the event you continue to have difficulty implementing a parenting plan.
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