In March 2007, the Supreme Court of New Jersey launched a pilot program for parent coordination[i].  That program defines a Parenting Coordinator as “a qualified neutral person appointed by the court, or agreed to by the parties, to facilitate the resolution of day to day parenting issues that frequently arise within the context of family life when parents are separated.  The Parenting Coordinator’s goal 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.”

Although the pilot program itself was dissolved, the concept of parent coordination is alive and well in family law cases by way of settlement agreements and court orders. 

Although a court cannot defer decision making to the Parenting Coordinator (often referred to as a “PC”), the PC is engaged to make recommendations.  Typically, depending on the specific terms of each parent coordination agreement, the recommendations of the PC are binding inasmuch as the party (parent) dissatisfied with the recommendation is obliged to file a formal application with the Court to undo same.  Otherwise, the recommendation remains in effect unless and until modified by agreement or court order, making it a powerful remedy. 

Although not always true, many cases that require parent coordination are high-conflict matters.  A PC is often involved to address and make recommendations on issues for which parents who can effectively communicate and co-parent would not require assistance.  These issues can be minor, such as haircuts, pick up and drop off locations, and exchange times, or the issues can be substantially more complex, such as choice of religion, college, private school, daycare, holidays, activities, schedules, or parenting time.

For each case, the PC shall serve only in the PC role and may not at any time serve in a dual role as an attorney, therapist, guardian ad litem, mediator, or custody parenting time evaluator.

The manner in which parent coordination occurs is very fact-sensitive and depends on each case.  The PC agreement must set forth specific protocols for how the arrangement will take place, including, but not limited to, fees, methods of contact or meeting, interviews, availability of collaterals, and timing of recommendations.  It is also critical to ensure the PC is familiar with the issues of your case and the judges (ultimate decision maker) in your venue.

[1] https://www.njcourts.gov/notices/2007/n070403a.pdf

 

Ms. Fredericks, an experienced family law attorney, has been court appointed to serve as a parent coordinator and has also been privately selected for this role by her peers.  If you are interested in more information about Parent Coordination, please contact our office or Ms. Fredericks directly at 908-735-5161 or dfredericks@gklegal.com.