What is a Parenting Coordinator and What are the Benefits to Working with One?
Child custody cases can result in a lot more than a Court Order setting out the physical custody schedule and legal custody terms. Feelings of anger, frustration, distrust and resentment are all common occurrences following child custody litigation. In some cases, called “high conflict” custody cases, a pattern of the following occurs: excessive litigation, anger and distrust between the parents, verbal abuse or domestic violence between parents or difficulty communicating about and cooperating in the care of the children. When these types of occurrences are repeated and sustained, co-parenting can often feel all but impossible. In such high conflict cases, a parenting coordinator may be able to help.
What is a parenting coordinator and what do they do?
The main objective of a parenting coordinator is to protect the best interests of the children. Parenting coordinators are neutral, court-appointed professionals – typically lawyers experienced in the field of family law or mental health professionals – who help parents handle high conflict custody cases. Many times, the parenting coordinator will meet with both parents separately and possibly the children to gain an understanding of the issues surrounding the conflict between the parents. By finding out the basis for the conflicts, the parenting coordinator can then help facilitate communication between parents and help navigate misunderstandings and disputes. The parenting coordinator may also interpret the Custody Order and make decisions regarding its implementation.
What are the benefits to working with a parenting coordinator?
If you share decision-making authority with the other parent and consistently find yourself unable to communicate effectively and make joint decisions, a parenting coordinator could be an extremely useful asset. Imagine having a professional there to make fast, cost-effective, binding, and enforceable decisions that will address communication issues and resolve disputes between parents. That is what a parenting coordinator can offer. The result is hopefully less anger, hostility, resentment, and unresolved issues affecting your children.
Working with a parenting coordinator can decrease the emotional stress on both the parents and children. Parents learn to focus more on parenting and less on disputes, and improve communication between each other. Less conflict reduces the chance of more court appearances which gives each parent more time to focus on the children’s well-being. When parents are able to communicate and cooperate the children are more likely to thrive. They will be more at ease, have a more positive environment in both homes, and have both parents active in their lives. They may even learn how to be better communicators themselves.
How much does a parenting coordinator cost and should you hire a parenting coordinator?
A parenting coordinator’s fees typically range from $150 per hour to $350 per hour, and usually each parent shares the expense of a parenting coordinator equally. If the parties agree, or if a Judge orders it, the cost of a parenting coordinator can be split on something other than a 50/50 basis, depending on the income discrepancy between the parties. The parenting coordinator will also have the authority to reapportion costs to one parent or another regarding particular issues if it clear one parent is the source of the conflict at issue.
Every family dynamic is unique, and the success of parenting coordination depends on the effort each parent makes. When deciding to hire a parenting coordinator it is best to discuss it with a family law attorney. The attorney can most likely recommend a trusted parenting coordinator.
Ryan M. Tarrant is certified by the State Bar of North Carolina as a specialist in Family Law. He is certified as a North Carolina Parenting Coordinator.