At Lyons & Associates, P.C., we handle many high conflict custody cases. Sometimes Parenting Coordinators get involved.
What is a Parenting Coordinator?
In high-conflict divorce or post-divorce cases where the parties involved share one or more children, New Jersey Courts have implemented Parenting Coordinators – a third party who acts as a neutral mediator and aids the parties with resolution of co-parenting issues. In other words, a parenting coordinator intends to help the parties rationally discuss and reasonably resolve parenting time disagreements.
In 2007, the Supreme Court of New Jersey established the Parenting Coordinator Pilot Program whereby Courts were encouraged to test the concept and effectiveness of these coordinators. As a result, in high conflict custody or parenting time litigation, upon good cause shown, or by agreement between the parties, a New Jersey court can now appoint a Parenting Coordinator to resolve disputes between the parties. This if often a practice instituted where it is believed the child’s best interests are at stake. As part of this program, the Supreme Court outlined a series of Guidelines that courts must follow when utilizing a Parenting Coordinator.
Who is a Parenting Coordinator?
In a recent NJ Appellate Division case, Milne v. Goldenberg, the Court held that only a mental health professional may be appointed by the Court to serve as a Parenting Coordinator, unless the parties otherwise agree. Although the Parenting Coordinator Pilot Program is no longer in effect, Courts may still opt to use Parenting Coordinators in high conflict family law cases, but must also continue to follow the program’s Guidelines. As to the type of individual who may serve as a parenting coordinator, the Guidelines state:
“A Parenting Coordinator may be a social worker, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or a marriage and family therapist who shall be licensed to practice in the State of New Jersey by the appropriate State Board and agencies. If the parties consent, the court may designate as Parenting Coordinator a non-mental health lay person unrelated to either party or an attorney licensed in the State of New Jersey, so long as such individual is qualified by experience and/or training.”
The Effect of a Parenting Coordinator’s Recommendations
The involvement of a Parenting Coordinator in a case will not diminish the exclusive authority of the Court to make determinations regarding parenting time, custody, and support. Further, a Parenting Coordinator does not have any power to make or modify any order, judgment or decree, without both parties’ agreement. Therefore, the Parenting Coordinator is merely a tool for both the Court and the parties. The Parenting Coordinator aids in the control and management of the case, and helps the parties co-parent in a manner that is in the best interest of the child.
Additionally, by way of Court Order, the Court will both limit and define the Scope of the Parenting Coordinator’s roles and responsibilities. For example, the Court Order can afford the Parenting Coordinator the ability to address co-parenting issues between the parties and make various recommendations. The hope is that outside the courtroom, the parties will be able to come to their own agreements with respect to parenting.
The following are only some of the co-parenting issues a Parenting Coordinator may address with the parties:
- time, place, and manner of child pick up and drop off;
- child care arrangements;
- alterations in the parenting schedules;
- schedules and conditions of telephone communication; and
- child activity selection and scheduling.
Contact Lyons & Associates
If you are involved in high conflict divorce litigation, hire a family law attorney from Lyons & Associates, P.C. because we are familiar those types of cases and can effectively represent your interests in Court. Contact our firm online or by phone at 908-575-9777.
Written By: Kristyl M. Berckes, Esq.