What is a Parenting Coordinator?
A Parenting Coordinator is a neutral third party appointed by the Court to help parents work together in child custody cases. A Parenting Coordinator can be appointed either by consent of the parties, or the court may appoint a Parenting Coordinator on its own if it makes a specific finding that the custody case is “high-conflict,” that the appointment of the parenting coordinator is in the best interests of the minor child in the case, and that the parties are able to pay for the cost of the Parenting Coordinator.
What is a “High-Conflict” Child Custody Case?
A high-conflict child custody case exists when the parents are having a great deal of difficulty working together. A high-conflict case is defined in North Carolina General Statutes § 50-90(1) as a child custody action involving minor children where there is “an ongoing pattern of excessive litigation, anger and distrust, verbal abuse, physical aggression or threats of physical aggression, or difficulty communicating about and cooperating in the care of the minor children,” as well as any other conditions that the Court finds to be high-conflict in its discretion. A lot of times there are more than one of these factors present in high-conflict custody cases.
What Can a Parenting Coordinator Do?
The scope of a Parenting Coordinator’s authority is spelled out in the court order appointing the Parenting Coordinator to a child custody case. A Parenting Coordinator’s authority is limited to matters that will assist the parties in co-parenting; for example, he or she may help with identifying disputed issues, reducing misunderstandings between the parties, clarifying priorities, exploring possibilities for compromise, developing methods of collaboration in parenting, and complying with the court’s order of custody and visitation. When a Parenting Coordinator makes a decision, the parties must comply with his or her decision until the court reviews it.
Parenting Coordinator Fees
A Parenting Coordinator is entitled to reasonable compensation from the parties for a reasonable retainer and for services rendered. The Parenting Coordinator will not begin providing services to the parties until the fee has been paid. In the event of a dispute over the Parenting Coordinator’s fees, the Parenting Coordinator may request a hearing.
Communications with the Parenting Coordinator
Any communications between the parties and the Parenting Coordinator are NOT confidential. A Parenting Coordinator is required to provide the parties and the parties’ attorneys with a written summary of the developments in the case (following each meeting with the parties), as well as copies of any other written communications. The Parenting Coordinator is also required to maintain records of each meeting. A Parenting Coordinator’s records can only be subpoenaed by order of the judge presiding over the case. The Court must review these records in camera, and if the Court determines the records will assist the parties with the presentation of their case at trial, the Court may release them to the parties and the parties’ attorneys.
To learn more about Parenting Coordinators and child custody cases, contact our office at (919) 301-8843 to set up an initial consultation with one of our knowledgeable family law attorneys.
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