By Jenny McDonald, Jones Law Firm, P.C.
WHAT IS A PARENTING COORDINATOR?
A parenting coordinator provides intervention and assistance to parties in high-conflict divorce and parental responsibility allocation issues. This person is a neutral third party who helps parents resolve conflicts and disputes that arise concerning parental responsibilities. The parenting coordinator has the ability to implement a court-ordered parenting plan. With a parenting coordinator, it is hoped that parties will work through disputes as they arise and will not have to resort to formal court proceedings for each and every conflict that arises.
The parenting coordinator works with the parties to help them reduce conflict with the other parent by communicating more effectively and more positively with each other. This will also reduce the risk of harm to children involved in high-conflict situations. Colorado courts have been assigning parenting coordinators to domestic cases for many years, but in 2005 a statute was written establishing specific guidelines for what a parenting coordinator does.
The parenting coordinator must have all of the necessary education, certification, and other qualifications and must have a viewpoint that the court deems satisfactory.
WHEN CAN A PARENTING COORDINATOR BE APPOINTED?
A parenting coordinator can be appointed by the court at any time after the entry of an order concerning parental responsibilities. Either party, or the court, can make a motion to appoint a parenting coordinator, or the parties can agree to the appointment.
If the parties do not agree to appoint a parenting coordinator, it is necessary that the court discover the following before appointing a parenting coordinator without their consent:
- Failure by the parents to execute the parenting plan acceptably
- That the mediation was either inacceptable or ineffective
- This would be in the best interests of the child(ren)
WHO CAN BE A PARENTING COORDINATOR?
There are a few limitations on who can be a parenting coordinator. The statute says that a parenting coordinator has to be a neutral third-party. A person who serves in a domestic case to evaluate or represent the child cannot also serve as the parenting coordinator in that case. And, after a person is appointed as a parenting coordinator in a case, the court may not subsequently appoint the person to serve in the same case as an evaluator or a representative of the child. This is because the parenting coordinator must be a neutral third party.
The court is allowed appoint a parenting coordinator who has served, or is serving, in the same case as a child and family investigator upon the agreement of the parties. After appointing a person to serve as a parenting coordinator in a case, the court may not later appoint the person to serve as the child and family investigator in the same case. This is because courts prefer to have a child and family investigator who can begin with a fresh perspective, who does not have an ongoing relationship with the parties, and who has not previously viewed the day-to-day conflicts and interactions of the parties. A parenting coordinator has a relationship with the parties and is likely to have witnessed the parties' conflicts and interactions.
WHAT ARE THE RULES FOR BEING A PARENTING COORDINATOR?
The parenting coordinator must comply with any applicable provisions of the Colorado
Supreme Court Chief Justice Directives, as well as with any other practice or ethical standards that regulate the profession of the parenting coordinator. Parenting coordinators are often attorneys and mental health professionals. Therefore, if the parenting coordinator is an attorney, he or she must abide by the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct. If the parenting coordinator is a mental health professional, he or she must abide by the applicable professional standards.
The court must specify how long the parenting coordinator's appointment will last — up to but exceeding two years. Two years is the duration assumed if not otherwise specified. The parties are allowed to agree to change the terms. In the event of such an agreement, the parties can extend the appointment beyond the original two years. The court could decide to end the appointment at any point so long as there is a good cause — and the parenting coordinator reserves the right to leave at any time. The parties will have to pay for the services of the parenting coordinator. When a court orders the appointment of a parenting coordinator, it is required to include a statement of how the payment of all of the parenting coordinator's fees should be divided. Please note that the state will not pay a parenting coordinator's fees.