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What Are Parent Coordinators in Child Custody Cases?

Often times custody battles become filled with hostile emotions that if unchecked can destroy families for the long-term. Ironically, much of this hostility is centered not around major decisions or grand events but instead tend to be fueled by the more mundane day to day decision making processes that are to govern the life of the child in question.

To put it plainly, embattled parents are much more likely to fight over agreements of where child exchanges should take place or when it is acceptable to deviate from the agreed upon drop-off schedule than they are to argue over the life-shaping issues of health care and education.

The unfortunate truth is that in most cases there is no arrangement that can be made that will completely satisfy both parents in these matters. But in the State of New York and Long Island specifically, introducing a parenting coordinator to the equation can prove quite beneficial at facilitating amiable custody agreements among parents.

What Are Parent Coordinators

A parent coordinator is a child-focused professional that provide guidance to parents, usually involved in joint custody decisions, that may struggle with joint decision-making in regards to the child. These professionals are highly-trained at dispute resolution tactics that encourage parents to maintain focus on the child’s best interest when making decisions. The continuous highlighting of the child’s best interest as the primary focus is often sufficient to diffuse friction between the parents.

Parent coordinators do not designate which parent is to be the primary caregiver but instead typically become involved following this decision being made by a judge. The bulk of a parent coordinator’s duties involve providing the needed support for parents to come together on issues that seemingly fall between the cracks of the orders issued by the judge.

The specific functions of parent coordinators are many. A primary goal for parent coordinators is to support improved communication between the parents when discussing parenting issues. Poor communication is often a central theme of marriages that have ended in divorce and often spills over into post-divorce relationships. Effective co-parenting absent of effective communication is not an attainable goal.

Parent coordinators also counsel parents regarding any developmental issues that may become manifest in children while themselves enduring the divorce process. Parent coordinators also provide a buffer between ‘warring’ parents when frustration mounts due to conflict and works with parents until a mutual agreement can be attained. When no agreement can be reached by parents it will sometimes be necessary for the parent coordinator to themselves make the decision.

When Is A Parent Coordinator Needed?

The State Of New York makes parent coordinators available if wanted to parents when a case is determined to be a ‘high-conflict’ case.

While understandable to note that heightened levels of conflict is present with all custody cases, the cases that are designated to be high-conflict are those determined to involve continued patterns of:

• Excess or frivolous litigation
• Verbally abusive behavior
• Heightened anger or distrust
• Threatening words or behavior
• Physically aggressive behavior
• Inability to communicate
• Any other conditions a judge may deem ‘high-conflict.’

As already noted it is not unusual for some conflict to accompany custody issues and this can cause difficulties with cooperation between parents. It is also not uncommon for some measurable degree of anger and distrust to exist. The differentiation made in cases that are deemed to be high conflict cases in custody matters is the documentation of an ongoing pattern of problems and behaviors that suggest the need for professional mediation.

Duties Of Parent coordinators

The parenting coordinator provides remedies for problematic issues by negotiating agreements between the parents in a way that does not give chance for conflicts to escalate. This process will ideally enable both parents to play a healthy role in fostering agreements that both agree to be fair while maintaining a focus on the child’s best interest.

Parent coordinators are given a substantial amount of power to facilitate their own job performance but make attempts to allow final decisions to be made in joint by parents. When this objective cannot be achieved parent coordinators my themselves become responsible for:

• Recommending or establishing changes to custody or orders of visitation as deemed to be in the best interest of the child.
• Immediately notify authorities of any abuse to the child.
• Make determinations as to when the family and friends of the non-custodial parents are to have access to the child.
• Mediate conflicts between the parents involved in the case and when necessary make binding decisions for the parents regarding things like choosing schools or churches to attend.
• Decide what topics can be discussed with or in the presence of children.
• Determine where parents are allowed to take children and what activities are allowed during visitation.

In all circumstance, both parents are afforded the right to be heard during the decision making process.