Parenting Coordinators: Who They Are and What They Do

Most couples who experience parenting disagreements while going through a divorce or dissolution are able to work out their differences with enough time and some assistance. In some cases, however, parents have a great deal of difficulty agreeing when it comes to issues involving their children; these cases are referred to as “high conflict” cases. Parenting Coordinators assist parents in high conflict cases by resolving parenting disagreements when the parents are unable to do so and by helping them learn how to resolve their conflicts so that they can eventually work together without the involvement of the Parenting Coordinator.

Parenting Coordinators were initially part of a Pilot Program approved by the New Jersey State Supreme Court in March, 2007. The Pilot Program was implemented in Bergen, Middlesex, Morris, Sussex and Union counties. However, in a recently published case, the Courts in all of the counties in New Jersey were authorized to appoint Parenting Coordinators in appropriate cases.

A Parenting Coordinator can be a social worker, a psychologist, a psychiatrist or a marriage or family therapist. If the parties agree, they can designate a non-mental health person such as an attorney as long as that person is qualified by experience and/or training. The Parenting Coordinator Pilot Program Guidelines state the following:

(T)he goal of the Parenting Coordinator is “to aid parties in monitoring the existing parenting plan, reducing misunderstandings, clarifying priorities, exploring possibilities for compromise and developing methods of communication that promote collaboration in parenting. The Parenting Coordinator’s role is to facilitate decision making between the parties or make such recommendations as may be appropriate when the parties are unable to do so. One primary goal of the Parenting Coordinator is to empower parents to develop and utilize effective parenting skills so that they can resume the parenting and decision-making role without the need for outside intervention. The Parenting Coordinator should provide guidance and direction to the parties with the primary focus on the best interests of the child by reducing conflict and fostering sound decisions that aid positive child development.”

Courts are authorized to appoint Parenting Coordinators at any time during a legal proceeding after the entry of an order establishing custody and/or parenting time, including the entry of temporary orders. Parenting Coordinators do not replace or diminish the Court’s role in determining issues of custody, parenting time or support although they do reduce the number of times that parents in high conflict cases return to Court. The Court may order the appointment of a Parenting Coordinator on the application of either party, on a joint application by both parties or on its own. Usually, the parties equally divide the cost of the Parenting Coordinator.

For further information you can obtain a copy of the Parenting Coordinator Pilot Program on the New Jersey Judiciary’s website.

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