Massachusetts Parenting Coordinator Information
If you and your ex (or soon to be ex) are able to cooperate regarding parenting responsibilities and schedules, you likely won’t need a parenting coordinator (PC). But for parents experiencing difficulties working together and following schedules and parenting agreements, a PC serves a number of functions that will hopefully lessen the amount of conflict and avoid multiple court appearances when separated or divorced parents cannot work together.
What is a Parent Coordinator?
A parent coordinator is a neutral professional that works with separated or divorced high-conflict parents to resolve disagreements over the scheduling of parenting time and other child-related issues. They also help parents implement the details of their parenting plan.
PCs are usually attorneys with divorce and family law experience and mediation training. Some Parenting Coordinators may be mental health professionals.
The Parenting Coordination Process
Parenting Coordination is a form of alternative dispute resolution that is focused on the child or children. The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) explains the process in their guidelines as follows:
“The overall objective of parenting coordination is to assist high conflict parents to implement their parenting plan, to monitor compliance with the details of the plan, to resolve conflicts regarding their children and the parenting plan in a timely manner, and to protect and sustain safe, healthy and meaningful parent-child relationships. Parenting coordination is a quasi-legal, mental health, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process that combines assessment, education, case management, conflict management and sometimes decision-making functions.”
Parents with a history of more intense conflict marked by an inability or unwillingness to work together over a period of time may benefit from using a PC. Luckily, most parents will not need this level of service and manage their parenting responsibilities on their own.
Powers of the Parenting Coordinator
It is common in Massachusetts that the Probate & Family Court will appoint a PC for a specific case. Some Separation Agreements also contain language about the use and authority of parenting coordinators. Parents may also agree to work with a PC. Parenting Coordinators perform different roles and have different levels of authority. Some functions a PC may perform include:
- Communications facilitator
- Decision-maker (arbitrator)
- Case Monitor
In Massachusetts, the PC’s work should support promote the best interests of the children.
If parents cannot resolve an issue on their own, then the PC may work with the parents to help them reach a resolution in a more facilitative manner, but if they cannot agree, then the PC will be make a binding decision for the parents. Either parent could appeal such a decision to the Court.
PCs may meet with parents together or individually, or communicate by telephone or email. A PC may also speak with other individuals, such as school officials, therapists, etc. It is common that a written memo or minutes be sent to the parties, sometimes in the form of electronic mail since many parenting issues must be decided quickly, such as a scheduling conflict.
How Much Do Parenting Coordinators Charge?
Although many lawyers say that someone could not pay them enough to serve as a parenting coordinator, most PCs charge an hourly rate that is similar to the hourly rates a family law attorney might charge. Rates also differ by the person’s experience level and their region. While it is common that parents share the cost of the PC equally, sometimes the cost may be adjusted if there is a large disparity in the parents’ incomes. Although you do have to pay the PC, it is much less money than paying two attorneys to go to court and present your parenting conflict to the Court, especially when frequent conflict is the norm!
I think I need a Massachusetts Parenting Coordinator. What should I do?
If you are experiencing stress and conflict over parenting with your ex, or soon to be ex-spouse, then please call us to schedule a consultation, The Divorce Collaborative at (508) 346-3805. The Divorce Collaborative serves clients throughout Massachusetts from our offices in Medway and Burlington.