Parent Coordinator
by Neil S. Grossman, Ph.D.

Parent Coordinator (PC) is a recently developed professional role that is used in a number of states. It was introduced in New York State in 2003.

The goal of a PC is to resolve recurrent disputes concerning implementing a court ordered parenting plan. Professionals in this role are appointed by the Court when stipulated to by the parents. The parents may give the professional the power to make certain decisions when they are not able to resolve parenting-plan issues. Psychologists typically are used as PC.

PC deal with the conflicts that develop when the parents attempt to implement the court ordered parenting plan, such as: day to day variations in time sharing arrangements, special events, meeting the children’s changing developmental needs, and transportation and exchange. They also may recommend and monitor psychological counseling for the children, manage cases when a parent and child are rebuilding an interrupted or damaged relationship, or when one parent’s care-taking capacity is intermittently interrupted by a recurring problem such as substance abuse or mental illness.

The advantages to the use of a professional in this role are that the PC can facilitate appropriate parenting, reduce conflict, improve communication, keep children out of the “middle,” and make small adjustments in a timely fashion that would otherwise require reintroduction of a case to the Court calendar.

Appointment of a PC is typically for a specified term that can be renewed upon agreement of the parties. If both parents agree the contract can be terminated prior to the end of the term. Issues of confidentiality are specified as are the areas of decision making. There usually is access to non-parties, the children, and privileged information to obtain necessary data. The appointment order specifies whether the PC may be called as a witness in subsequent legal actions. In most states the appointment provides quasi-judicial immunity from lawsuits.

Agreements and decisions of the PC are usually made in writing with a copy provided to the court. A mechanism frequently is available that enables a parent to object to recommendations, but they remain in place until reviewed by the Court. The Court usually will not change a recommendation unless there is a substantive reason. This provides judicial review.

Specified fees for the service are paid by the parents and may be apportioned between the parties. If one party prompts unnecessary fees the PC may have the authority to change the proportion for that service.

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