Parent Coordination is Back, But is it Right for Your Custody Case?
On March 1, 2019, Parent Coordination returned to Pennsylvania. Conflict between divorcing parents over how to best raise their children does not necessarily end with a settlement of the custody case. Not only are high-conflict parenting relationships damaging to children, they require an excessive amount of court time and financial resources. Enter Parent Coordination.
What is Parent Coordination?
Parent Coordination is a process in which the court appoints a third party to help resolve certain issues between parents after their custody case has ended. The coordinators are either mental health or legal professional with mediation training and other special training.
Parent Coordination is not for all cases. Ideally, parents co-parent without having to pay “an umpire to call balls and strikes.” However, some parents have frequent disagreements that they cannot resolve on their own. Often, the parents have failed in co-parenting counseling. A court-appointed parent coordinator has the authority to resolve issues short of involving the court.
Appointments last only a year but can be extended. Parent coordinators are “to resolve parenting issues involving repeated or intractable conflict between the parties affecting implementation of the final custody order.”
What Issues Can a Parent Coordinator Decide?
Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1915.11-1 specifies exactly what type of issues the parenting coordinator can consider.
The authority of a parenting coordinator is limited to certain issues, such as how and where custody exchanges take place, participation in extracurricular activities, childcare, and temporary variations from the court-ordered custody schedule to accommodate a special event of particular circumstances.
Here is a complete list:
(i) Places and conditions for custodial transitions between
(ii) Temporary variation from the custodial schedule for a
special event or particular circumstance;
(iii) School issues, apart from school selection;
(iv) The child’s participation in recreation, enrichment, and
extracurricular activities, including travel;
(v) Child-care arrangements;
(vi) Clothing, equipment, toys, and personal possessions of the
(vii) Information exchanges (e.g. school, health, social) between
the parties and communication with or about the child;
(viii) Coordination of existing or court-ordered services for the
child, e.g. psychological testing, alcohol or drug
monitoring/testing, psychotherapy, anger management;
(ix) Behavioral management of the child; and
(x) Other related custody issues that the parties mutually have
agreed in writing to submit to the parenting coordinator provided such issues are not on the list of excluded issues.
Parenting coordinators cannot change legal custody or award a parent primary physical custody. They cannot decide whether a relocation of a child is appropriate or make major decisions affecting the health, education or religion of the children.
A parent coordinator cannot decide financial issues other than how the parenting coordinator’s fees will be allocated. The court initially allocates parenting coordinator’s fees, but the parenting coordinator “may reallocate the fees, subject to the approval of the court, if one party has caused a disproportionate need for the services of the parenting coordinator.”
Divorced and separated parents must continue to communicate for the sake of their children. When the communication is so broken and other avenues have failed, a parent coordinator may be the only way to ensure that the parents can resolve ongoing issues short of going to court.
Written by GHA Attorney Carla Donnelly.