If you and your ex are still fighting after a custody order has been entered, the fighting is likely having a negative impact on you and your family. There are several valid reasons why a great deal of conflict might linger, even though your case has been resolved. Maybe there are residual trust or anger issues. Maybe there are too many scars from past physical or mental abuse. Perhaps your former spouse has a personality disorder and is simply impossible to make decisions with.
Whatever the reason, North Carolina legislators have recognized that certain kinds of custody cases require extra support to help parents resolve disputes and promote the best interests of their children. One of the extra supports provided by North Carolina law is the appointment of a Parenting Coordinator.
What is a Parenting Coordinator?
A parenting coordinator is a professional (typically either a family law attorney or a mental health professional, such as a child psychologist) trained in problem-solving techniques for high-conflict family situations. He or she is an impartial professional who acts as a mediator and/or decision-maker for the parties.
What Can a Parenting Coordinator Do?
If appointed, the parenting coordinator (or “PC”) helps the parties resolve certain custody-related issues without having to involve a family court judge. He or she can work to reduce misunderstandings and clarify issues between parties. Additionally, the parenting coordinator may be granted the authority to make decisions related to custody that aren’t specifically spelled out in the court order. A sample of typical “areas of domain” assigned to the PC include:
- Visitation transition issues such as pickup and delivery time, location and method of transportation;
- Before and after school activities such as daycare, babysitting and extracurricular activities;
- Methods of discipline;
- Health care of the minor children; and
- Telephone contact with the minor children
5 Reasons You Should Consider a Parenting Coordinator:
- Faster Results: Often, parents involved in high-conflict cases cannot solve their problems without calling upon their assigned judge to make the decision for them. Unfortunately, our judges normally have months’ worth of backlogged cases to hear. Absent extraordinary circumstances, it will likely take several months before a judge is able to hear your case. A parenting coordinator, however, should be able to make a decision within days (often even the same day) of when the issue is presented. Faster decisions mean increased stability for the children in their everyday lives and less chaos and uncertainty for everyone.
- Avoiding a Stalemate: Remember that time that you and your ex couldn’t agree on whether your child could obtain a passport to go on a Disney cruise with you and your new spouse? The two of you went back and forth for weeks with no resolution, increasing your resentment for one another in the process. A parenting coordinator would have resolved the dispute in just a few days, eliminating the stress and hard feelings that come with disagreements over such important issues.
- Less Expensive: If your only remedy for resolution of a dispute with your ex regarding the children is proceeding through the court system, you’ll likely spend a great deal of money on an attorney to make sure that you’re represented properly. Even if it’s a small issue, it may mean days in court and multiple preparations when you consider the likelihood that your case won’t be reached the first time your hearing is scheduled. And if you have a high-conflict case, chances are you are going to be in front of the judge multiple times over the next few years. While a Parenting Coordinator does cost money (most bill at an hourly rate), having one on board is much cheaper than engaging in constant litigation.
- Impartiality: Parenting Coordinators are “neutrals.” That means their decisions will not be biased towards one parent or the other. They are guided in making decisions solely by what they deem to be in the best interest and welfare of the child. While you may not always agree with the decision, in most cases you can rest assured that whatever the PC decides will be the right call.
- Experience/Knowledge: Parenting Coordinators must hold an advanced degree in psychology, law, social work counseling, medicine or a related field. Additionally, a PC must have at least five years of related experience and receive 24 hours of training in issues related to high-conflict custody cases. With a PC on board, you know you have someone helping you who has dedicated his or her professional career to helping families in similar situations.
If you believe you and your family could benefit from a having a Parenting Coordinator assigned to your case, contact our office today. One of our knowledgeable family law attorneys will be able to advise you and assist you with getting the help you need.