Sometimes co-parents need extra help in coming to important decisions regarding their children. In Pennsylvania, this assistance can come in the form of a parenting coordinator, a specially trained lawyer or mental health professional appointed by the court to assist co-parents in high conflict custody cases.
After a final custody order has been entered, a judge may appoint a parenting coordinator either on their own or by granting the request of one of the parties.
The parenting coordinator is paid for by the parties, usually through a retainer with an hourly rate specified in the initial agreement.
Parenting Coordinator Duties in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, the parenting coordinator is appointed for a specific period of time not to exceed 12 months. Generally, a parenting coordinator has the authority to recommend resolutions to the custody judge in the following types of disputes:
- Sites and conditions of physical custody exchanges;
- Variations from usual custody schedule for particular considerations, such as special events;
- Issues concerning school (besides school selection itself), extracurricular activities, etc.;
- Child care arrangements;
- Clothing and other personal belongings of the children;
- Communications regarding the children's school and health;
- Coordination of any court-ordered services for the children, such as counseling;
- Behavioral management of the children;
- Any other issues the parties have mutually agreed to submit to the parenting coordinator.
The parenting coordinator's role is to help the parties come to a resolution of disputed issues. If no agreement can be reached, the coordinator will then make a recommendation to the judge as to how the issue should be resolved.
Note that changes in legal or physical custody, the children's relocation, financial issues, and major decisions regarding the health, education, or religion of the children are not among the issues handled by a parenting coordinator.
Benefits of a Parenting Coordinator
Having an independent third party in the middle of disputes can be beneficial to co-parents who have poor communication with one another. The co-parents may experience less stress by having someone else facilitate discussions.
Parent coordinators can also help reduce the number of court filings by the parties. This result is positive not only for the parents and children but also for the court system, which can focus its resources on cases that actually require judicial intervention.
Even in some high conflict cases, though, a parenting coordinator isn't the right choice. Pennsylvania law specifically prohibits the appointment of a parenting coordinator in cases involving allegations or instances of domestic violence unless both parties consent and proper safety measures have been put in place.
If you are involved in a contentious custody situation and would like more information on how a parenting coordinator can help, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.