What are Massachusetts Parenting Coordinators and What Can They Do?
Parenting Coordinators are usually mental health professionals (such as therapists, counselors, psychologists) that help parents resolve conflicts. Parenting Coordinators (PCs) can also be family law attorneys as well.
A PC is mutually agreed upon by the parties in a divorce or custody case. Both parents must agree to use a PC since the court does not have the power to appoint one. Once a PC has been chosen and is incorporated into an agreement signed by both parties, then a judge can enforce those provisions.
A PC can be very useful in situations where there is a high level of conflict between parents. If parents have trouble co-parenting or making joint decisions in the best interest of their children, then a PC can be called upon to help resolve the conflict or impasse. The level of involvement a PC has depends on what the parents originally empowered the PC to do. The powers of the PC can be as broad as making a substitute decision for the parents if they can’t agree and it can be as limited as simply offering an opinion to the parents.
PCs are paid by the parties and the cost is also apportioned depending on what the parents originally agreed upon. In many cases, the parents are both equally responsible for the cost of the PC. In other situations where the parents have differing levels of income, then one parent might be responsible for payment of greater than 1/2 of the PC.
In my practice, we often encourage our clients to agree to the services of a PC in high conflict cases. We also encourage the parents to give the PC wide powers to break impasses between the parents. If the provisions are written correctly and in detail, and when the parties use the PC appropriately, PCs are very useful and ideally would allow both parents to avoid going back to the court to seek further remedies.