A parenting coordinator is new option for clients that became effective on March 1, 2019. A parenting coordinator is an attorney or mental health professional with a Master’s degree or higher, who is appointed by the Court for a limited period of time to assist parties involved in contentious custody actions to resolve issues without the formality of a court hearing. An attorney who is acting in the capacity of a parenting coordinator must have a minimum of five years of experience in custody law. A mental health professional with a Master’s degree or higher must have a minimum of five years of experience in psychiatry, psychology, counseling, family therapy, or other comparable behavioral or science field. The parenting coordinator must also complete a specialized training program, complete continuing education requirements and be appointed by a judge of the Court of Common Pleas.
A parenting coordinator is not appropriate in cases where there is a Protection From Abuse Order in effect between the parties of the custody action; one of the parties has been the victim of domestic violence by the other party in the custody action; or where one party has been the victim of a crime of violence which was perpetrated by the other party to the custody action. When a parenting coordinator is appointed by the court, a parenting coordinator is appointed for a period of time of up to 12 months. If the parties feel that the process is helpful, they can petition the court for an extension of the appointment time frame.
The appointment of a parenting coordinator can only be made after the entry of a final custody order. The purpose of appointing the parenting coordinator after the entry of a custody order is to assist the parties resolve minor issues that may arise in implementing the custody order or in their method of communication. Examples of issues that would be appropriate for the parenting coordinator to resolve would be 1) location for custody exchanges; 2) temporary changes to the custody schedule to accommodate a special occasion or family event; 3) child care arrangements; 4) the child’s participation in extracurricular activities, etc. A parenting coordinator, however, cannot resolve issues or make changes to the custody order that change legal custody or the physical custody schedule, relocation of the parties or other decisions that affect the child’s health, education or religion.
The communications between the parties and the parenting coordinator is not confidential. The parenting coordinator will be transparent with regard to the information received by both parties. After meeting with the parties on an issue that is before the parenting coordinator, the parenting coordinator shall make a recommendation to the court for the entry of an order implementing the recommendation. The parties have the right to object to the recommendation.
The parenting coordination process is not for everyone, but can be a very helpful tool for the parties in custody actions to assist them in resolving issues for the benefit of their minor children. Attorney Tabetha Tanner has been appointed as a Parenting Coordinator in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania and Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. Please contact our office with additional questions regarding the parenting coordination process.