What is a parent coordinator?
A parent coordinator is a mental health professional who helps parents resolve conflicts about parenting issues. A parent coordinator's qualifications and role are governed by Code of Judicial Administration Rule 4-509. The services of a parent coordinator may be ordered by the court with or without the stipulation of both parties. The forms and procedures on this webpage apply when a party wants to ask the court to appoint a parent coordinator.
A parent coordinator has expertise in child development and helps parents resolve their differences by offering advice about the needs of the children and the workability of various parenting plans. The parents are not obligated to take the advice offered and the discussions and recommendations are confidential.
What does a parent coordinator do?
A parent coordinator may be appointed to help parents write a parenting plan that works for their children and their family situation. With the parents' permission, any agreed upon plan or part of a plan can be forwarded to the parents' attorneys for final review. This plan can be incorporated in the divorce decree or other court order.
A parent coordinator may also be appointed to help parents resolve differences about the implementation of an established parenting plan or to resolve differences about issues that are not covered by the plan. For example, if the parents are having difficulty deciding about a school placement for a child and have been ordered to resolve their differences through parent coordination, a parent coordinator may provide additional valuable input. By meeting with a parent coordinator, parents may be able resolve their differences.
What is a parenting plan?
A parenting plan outlines how the parents will raise their children. It encourages the parents to think in advance about how to make decisions and resolve disagreements. The result will be more predictability and stability for the children and less stress and anxiety. A parenting plan is required for shared parenting arrangements and is advisable in other parenting arrangements. For more information, see our webpage on Parenting Plans.
How do I find a parent coordinator?
Attorneys may be aware of practitioners who meet the qualifications of Rule 4-509 and who offer this service. Many custody evaluators meet the qualifications. Custody evaluators who do not perform this service may be able to refer you to someone who does. Other mental health professionals may also qualify. The court does not have a list of parent coordinators.
Who pays the parent coordinator?
The order appointing a parent coordinator will designate which parent(s) are responsible for paying the parent coordinator and how much.
What is the time-line for parent coordination?
Parent coordination may occur soon after the separation and before or after mediation. Sometimes both mediation and parent coordination are needed to write a parenting plan. Parent coordination may also occur when differences are referred to the court after a divorce decree.
What happens if I agree on a parenting plan after parent coordination?
The parent coordinator may provide to the parties and their attorneys a summary of the agreed-upon features of a parenting plan, but the parties and their attorneys must write the parenting plan and file it with the court. For information and forms, see our webpage on Parenting Plans.
What happens if I don't agree on a parenting plan after parent coordination?
Other ways of arriving at a parenting plan, such as through a custody evaluation, may be proposed to the court.
When is parent coordination not appropriate?
For parent coordination to be effective, both parents need to agree that it is in the best interests of the children to have an on-going relationship with both parents or that assistance would help the parents to follow the court's orders. The parents should be able to meet in an office together with the parent coordinator, without their attorneys, and discuss in good faith the best interests of the children.
Parent coordination is not appropriate if one parent is afraid of retaliation from the other or does not feel that they can be honest and forthright about their preferences. Parent coordination is not appropriate if a parent believes that the other parent is a danger to the child or that they must keep secrets about the child from the other parent.
If there is a protective order or no contact order against either party, the court will have to decide whether parent coordination should be an exception to the order.
Resources for parent coordinators
A parent coordinator should thoroughly read Code of Judicial Administration Rule 4-509 and be prepared to complete the Parent Coordinator's Forms listed below before offering their services.
What forms you need depend on whether your case is before a commissioner or a judge.