North Carolina is one of only a few states to legislatively approve the use of Parent Coordinators. Parent Coordinators are neutral professionals who assist parents with identifying disputed issues; reducing misunderstandings; clarifying priorities; exploring possibilities for compromise; assisting with bringing about compromise; and facilitating communication. When parents are at an impasse over certain decisions, the parent coordinator is a court-appointed professional who has quasi-judicial authority to make binding decisions about child-related issues, to interpret the parents’ parenting plan and make decisions regarding the implementation of the parenting plan.
Parents can consent to use a parent coordinator. Parents who consent to use a parent coordinator can name their own Parent Coordinator. Parents can decide what specific authority a parent coordinator has or doesn’t have. The Court can also appoint a parent coordinator without the consent of the parents if the Court finds that the case is a high-conflict case; that the parent coordinator appointment is in the best interest of the children; and that the parents have the ability to pay for the services of the parent coordinator.
A “high-conflict” case is one where there is a pattern of excessive litigation; anger and distrust between the parents; verbal abuse or domestic violence between the parents; or difficulty communicating about and cooperating in the care of the children.
How Much Will It Cost?
A parent coordinator’s fees may range from $175 per hour to $350 per hour, depending on the experience and qualifications of the parent coordinator. Typically, each parent shares the expense of a parent coordinator equally; however, a parent coordinator has the discretion to apportion the fees unequally if the parent coordinator feels one parent is unduly demanding services or one parent is not acting in good faith or other reasons that may justify an unequal fee share. NC law outlines the minimum requirements to qualify as a parent coordinator, and usually a parent coordinator is either a lawyer or a mental health professional.
Is a Parent Coordinator Right for Me?
Utilizing a parent coordinator can be a tremendous asset. In situations where parents share joint decision-making and find themselves deadlocked over a decision, having a Parent Coordinator is a swift, efficient, and a cost-effective problem solving solution. A swift decision by a Parent Coordinator can reduce hostility and eliminate a lingering, festering, dispute. If a parent believes that the decision of the Parent Coordinator is misguided, a parent may request an expedited hearing so that a Judge can review the decision of the Parent Coordinator.
In some instances, however, the use of a Parent Coordinator is another battlefield upon which to wage another war.
How Long Will I Need a Parent Coordinator?
The duration of a parent coordinator’s appointment is generally six months to one year. The appointment can be extended by agreement of the parents or by order of the Judge. Most parents use a Parent Coordinator for approximately 3 to 6 months, and thereafter are able to resolve differences of opinion without a third party. Some parents keep the Parent Coordinator’s appointment active for many years and though rarely use the Parent Coordinator’s services, are happy to have the safety net available should the need arise. On the other hand, some families need more intensive problem-solving and communication assistance. In some cases, Parent Coordinators and Family Therapists work together.
What Kind of Parent Coordinator Will Work Best for Me?
Family dynamics and fit matter. The selection of your Parent Coordinator should be a good fit. For example, if there are mental health issues, substance abuse issues, addiction issues, or other dynamics that create tension and conflict, a Parent Coordinator with a mental health or social work background may be a good fit. If, on the other hand, prompt and firm decision-making is essential, then another type of Parent Coordinator personality and skill set may be needed. Your Parker Bryan Family Law team understands the complicated layers and can guide you to the best decision about whether a Parent Coordinator is right for your family, and if so, who will be a good fit.