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Does Your Decision-Maker Need To Be A Parenting Coordinator Too?

I was recently appointed to a case as a Decision-Maker only, and not as a Parenting Coordinator/Decision-Maker, which caused me to analyze the statutes for each to determine whether a Decision-Maker needs to be a Parenting Coordinator as well.

A Parenting Coordinator is appointed by the Court to assist in the resolution of disputes between the parties concerning parental responsibilities, including but not limited to implementation of the Court-ordered Parenting Plan. The scope of a Parenting Coordinator’s assistance includes but is not limited to creating an agreed-upon, structured guideline for implementation of the Parenting Plan; developing guidelines for communication between the parties and suggesting appropriate resources to assist the parties in learning appropriate communication skills; informing the parties about appropriate resources to assist them in developing improved parenting skills; assisting in realistically identifying the sources and causes of conflict between the parties, including but not limited to identifying each party’s contribution to the conflict, when appropriate; and assisting the parties in developing parenting strategies to minimize conflict.

A Decision-Maker, on the other hand, is appointed to resolve disputes between the parties as to implementation or clarification of existing court orders concerning the parties’ minor children, including but not limited to disputes concerning parenting time, specific disputed parental decisions and child support.

When a Decision-Maker is appointed without the Parenting-Coordinator designation, the assistance available to the family is limited to resolving specific, identifiable, disputes between the parties as to implementation or clarification of the existing orders.

Here is an illustration of the problem: Father is concerned about the children being tardy to school during Mother’s parenting time. Father requests that the Decision-Maker issue a decision that the children not be tardy or removed from school without the agreement of both parties. A Parenting Coordinator could address Father’s concerns by developing guidelines for communication between the parties regarding the children being tardy to school or removed from school to minimize the conflict in the future. However, in the absence of a specific provision in a court order regarding the circumstances under which the children may be tardy or removed from school and a dispute between the parties regarding how to implement the court order or a need for clarification of such provision, a Decision-Maker is without the statutory authority to assist.

In short, a Decision-Maker who is not also a Parenting Coordinator is essentially an informal arbitrator whose authority is limited to resolving disputes. Nothing in the statutes requires a Decision-Maker to also be a Parenting Coordinator; however, if the family is to be assisted in the manner intended by Sections 128.1 and 128.3 of Article 10, a Decision-Maker needs to be a Parenting Coordinator too.

In addition to her litigation practice, Ms. Cline serves as a Mediator for all divorce and family law disputes, bringing her experience in the Courtroom to the settlement table to assist parties in amicable resolutions of their divorce and family law matters. Ms. Cline further assists families in resolution of their disputes as a Collaborative Law Mediator and through Court ordered appointments as a Parenting Coordinator and Decision-Maker and Arbitrator.

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