The Role of the Parenting Coordinator in Parenting Plans
Disagreements between parents over how much time each should get to spend with their child are fairly common and easy to understand given the stakes involved with child custody matters. While it may seem logical to ask a court to decide how much parenting time each party should receive, courts would rather the parties work out such matters because it helps to promote harmony between the parents, which is better for the child in the long run. A recent article in the Palm Beach Post, looking at the potential impact of proposed law that would presume a 50/50 split of parenting time in all child custody cases, highlights the sometimes difficult balance between trying to reduce disputes between parties and the need to make sure both parties have equal opportunity to present their case. This is where the role of parenting coordination may be able to fill in some the gaps, as it provides an alternative forum to work out issues related to parenting time under the guidance of a parenting coordinator.
What Is Parenting Coordination?
Parenting coordination is an alternative dispute resolution program that exclusively deals with resolving parenting time disputes. A parenting coordinator is appointed by the court and helps both parents to settle their disagreements by providing education, recommendations, and in some cases, limited decision power. A parenting coordinator will only be granted the authority to make binding decisions if the parents consent and the court approves. Parents enter this program through the consent of both parties, a motion filed by one of the parties, or the court’s own motion. Parties in any case involving parenting time can use this program, including those where there is a history of domestic violence, but additional requirements must be met and further safeguards put in place.
Who Can Be a Parenting Coordinator?
A parenting coordinator is an impartial third party that assigned the task of helping parents establish and implement parenting plans. To be qualified as a parenting coordinator, the person must be or possess one of the following:
- a licensed mental health professional;
- a licensed physician with certification in psychiatry and neurology;
- certified by the Florida Bar as a family law mediator; or
- in good standing with the Florida Bar.
The coordinator must also have three years of practice experience, complete a family mediation training program through the Florida Bar, and complete 24 hours of parenting coordination training on issues that commonly occur among parties participating in the program.
Confidentiality of Information Disclosed
Generally, all information shared or disclosed by the parenting coordinator and the parties during program sessions is confidential, and the parenting coordinator and both parties are not permitted to testify on any information communicated as part of the parenting coordination program. Limited exceptions to the testimony rule are allowed for things like:
- a party’s compliance with the parenting plan order;
- the coordinator does not believe the program is appropriate any longer; or
- confirming or denying written agreements the parties entered into as part of the parenting coordination.
Hire a Lawyer
Child custody decisions should be handled with the utmost regard for the consequences on well-being of the child. Consequently, regardless of whether you enter a program like parenting coordination, having an attorney to represent your interests is crucial to addressing the needs of your child fully and fairly. The Tampa law firm of Bubley & Bubley, P.A. devotes a significant portion of its practice to these issues and is available to assist you. Contact us to schedule a confidential consultation.