When Is a Parenting Coordinator Needed in Divorce?

Parenting presents challenges in any situation, but it becomes particularly difficult for divorcing or separated parents attempting to co-parent while living separately. Different parenting philosophies and communication issues can often lead to significant disputes, complicating the co-parenting dynamic. In these cases, a parenting coordinator can prove invaluable.

Parenting coordinators offer a neutral, structured platform that allows divorcing or separated parents to resolve disputes and prioritize the child's best interests.

What Is a Parenting Coordinator?

A parenting coordinator (PC) is a trained and impartial professional appointed by the court or hired voluntarily to assist parents in resolving disputes related to child custody, parenting time, and other parenting matters.

PCs are usually legal or mental health professionals with advanced training in areas like conflict resolution, family dynamics, and child development. The primary objective of a PC is to enhance communication and cooperation between parents, aiming to resolve disagreements in a manner that prioritizes the child's best interests while reducing their exposure to parental disagreements.

What Parenting Coordinators Can and Can't Do

It is important to note that parenting coordinators do not hold decision-making authority. They are not empowered to make legal determinations regarding child custody or parenting schedules.

Instead, the core responsibilities of a PC include:

  1. Guiding parents toward constructive dialogue and encouraging mutually agreeable solutions.
  2. Offering recommendations to the court about parenting disputes, emphasizing serving the child's best interests.

The parent coordination process maintains strict confidentiality. Statements made during the process are inadmissible in court proceedings against either parent. PC confidentiality rules help to urge open and honest communication between both parties involved as well as with the coordinator. However, PCs do have a mandated duty to report any suspicion of child abuse or neglect to relevant authorities.

How Does the Parenting Coordination Process Work?

In New York, the parenting coordination process follows the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) guidelines. First, a parenting coordinator is assigned. The court may select a PC based on a list of approved professionals or based on a specific recommendation from either party involved.

Next, the PC meets with the parents either jointly or individually to review their parenting concerns. The PC collaborates with both parents to address and resolve any parenting issues in alignment with the best interests of the child. The parenting coordinator may also propose methods for enhancing communication and parenting skills or offer useful information regarding child development.

Parenting coordinators can help resolve various issues that parents may encounter, including:

  • Child Education: This includes decision-making on daycare, homeschooling, private school, special needs education, and education assessments.
  • Child Healthcare: PCs can provide guidance on scheduling and managing children's healthcare needs effectively.
  • Communication Assistance: PCs create a neutral environment where parents can discuss concerns constructively, reducing conflict and fostering collaborative communication.
  • Custody Agreements: PCs assist parents in understanding and adhering to existing custody agreements, ensuring both parties clearly interpret the terms.
  • Extracurricular Activities: PCs can help plan and manage parental involvement and children's participation in sports, hobbies, religious programs, summer camps, and other extracurricular activities.
  • Parent-Child Communication: PCs can offer guidelines concerning how children interact with each parent during visits and ensure clarity regarding each parent's access and boundaries during time with the child.
  • Parenting Plan Compliance: PCs can help ensure adherence to the parenting plan, monitor implementation, and address any violations.
  • Schedule Creation: PCs can help develop schedules, household guidelines, and daily routines to promote consistency in the child's daily life across both homes.
  • Transfer Protocols: PCs can help establish methods for smoothly exchanging children between parents' homes to minimize disruption.

In instances where parents are unable to independently resolve a dispute, the parenting coordinator is authorized to provide a recommendation to the court. The court will subsequently review the recommendation and make a ruling based on its assessment. The court may adopt the parenting coordinator's recommendation in full, modify it as deemed appropriate, or reject it entirely.

When is Parenting Coordination Used in Divorce?

Parenting coordination may not be appropriate for every divorce. However, it offers significant benefits in various co-parenting situations. If you are co-parenting and are faced with any of the following issues, a parenting coordination program may be recommended:

  • Conflicts with the other parent regarding childcare, scheduling, parenting plans, or visitation
  • Issues involving arguments among parents around the children or during visitation transfers
  • Inability to communicate or resolve parenting issues with the other parent
  • Difficulty developing a parenting plan that works for both parents
  • Problems interpreting or agreeing on terms of a custody agreement
  • Problems agreeing with the other parent on the child's extracurricular activities, health care, holiday schedules, educational needs, or religious practices.

Ultimately, a parenting coordinator can significantly reduce the necessity for court appearances, conserving time and money for both parents.

If you are considering parenting coordination, be sure to consult an experienced family law attorney. They can evaluate your situation, advise you on the prospective benefits of parenting coordination, and efficiently guide you through the process, and represent your interests in court as needed.


Karen Rosenthal

Karen B. Rosenthal is a partner and co-founder at matrimonial litigation firm Bikel Rosenthal & Schanfield LLP, where she brings 35 years of matrimonial law experience to bear in matters involving high-net-worth equitable distribution, contentious custody battles, and other high-stakes disputes. Certified as an Attorney for the Child and a frequent speaker on topics related to children going through high-conflict divorce, she has been recognized as a leading New York lawyer by Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, Crain's New York Business magazine, and New York magazine.

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