Parenting Coordinators Are a Third Party That Is Neutral to Both Parties
Video Transcribed: What is a parenting coordinator in Oklahoma, family law? I’m Oklahoma family attorney law James Wirth, and we’re about to talk about parenting coordinators. All right. So what is a parenting coordinator?
Well, simply it’s a third party that’s supposed to be neutral to both parties, appointed by a judge into a family law case to help resolve certain communication issues, help with the enforcement of a court orders. And to help essentially the parties make decisions in a way that’s more beneficial for the kids. So when are you eligible for a court appointed parenting coordinator? Well is a couple things.
One, if both parties are in agreement for the appointment, then the court can go along with that. However, if one party is in disagreement, there’s certain standards that have to be met.
Either party can make the request for the court appointed parenting coordinator, or the judge can sua sponte. Meaning on the court’s own motion, make the request for a parenting coordinator.
But if one party objects, they have to show two things. One, that the appointment is in the best interest of the children. And two, that it’s a high conflict case. Luckily the statute does give us some guidelines on what it means to be a high conflict case.
Specifically it says high conflict cases where we’ve got ongoing litigation, there’s anger and distrust among the parties or between the parties. There could be verbal abuse, physical aggression or threats of physical aggressions.
Difficulty in communicating and about cooperating for the care of the children, or other conditions that the court believes warrants the appointment of a parenting coordinator.
So if you can meet one of those prongs, you can show that it’s a high conflict case and then show that it’s in the best interest of the children, which I think most of the time it is. And most judges wouldn’t dispute that and request the appointment of a parenting coordinator.
So then what does the parenting coordinator do? Well, the parenting coordinator gets to decide and help the parties with recommendations and communications on certain issues. And those are kind of specified in the statute as well.
So the parenting coordinator’s job is to identify disputed issues, helping to reduce misunderstanding, clarifying priorities, exploring possibilities for compromise, developing methods of collaboration and parenting.
And helping the parties to comply with the court’s order regarding custody visitation and issues like that. What a parenting coordinator cannot do is make determinations regarding custody recommendations regarding custody, because the law provides for the parenting coordinator to be neutral.
Not advocating for one party or the other, but to be neutral in helping the parties get along better and make decisions better together.
So how does the process work? Well typically when people contact my office, they’ve got maybe some big issues or maybe just some small issues or maybe they have a big issue and some small issues.
So with big issues like custody visitation, where you need orders of the court, you’ve got to go through the court process and you’ve got to either reach an agreement along the process through negotiations, mediations, or you get a decision from the judge at trial.
But what about all the small issues that come up? Sometimes we have issues that are unexpected, where a party needs to change a visitation schedule one time because there’s an event that came up or there’s a medical issue, or there’s the corona virus.
Whatever the case may be for those issues where the court order is not clear on it. And the parties can’t reach an agreement on their own, rather than having the parties pay attorneys and go to court and wait, months potentially to get a court or a trial date.
If you’ve got a parenting coordinator involved, you can address that issue with the parenting coordinator. The parenting coordinator can make a decision or recommendations on that. And the order appointing makes specifications on what the judge can and cannot do. And there’s certain things that the judge maybe able to make a decision on it.
They can say, well, because of this event, we’re going to move your visitation from this day to this day as an accommodation this one time, and then move on from there. Or the court… Or I’m sorry, we’re the parenting coordinator rather than making a decision can make a recommendation.
So if it’s a decision, then that needs to be drafted up actually for decisions and recommendations, has to be drafted up and then filed with the court within 20 days and given to the parties. The parties then have 10 days to object and then any party objecting goes to the other side. And the other side has 10 days to file a response to that objection that it goes before the judge.
And then the judge could review those PC report, the objection, the response and just make a ruling based on that. Or the judge could set it for hearing. Okay. So now the difference between and decisions and recommendations.
So, decisions are operative the moment the parenting coordinator makes them and they need to be something that’s temporary in nature, not permanent in nature because the parent coordinator is restricted and its authority.
And then recommendations are ones that the parenting coordinator is just recommending them, but they need to be signed off by the judge. So they are not operative until it is signed off by a judge after the parenting coordinator report is filed.
But in either case you can get decisions from either recommendations or a direct decision, they go to the judge get a determination much more quickly than you can go into court and waiting for a final trial and getting a ruling.
So if you want the small stuff handled quickly and cheaply, it’s a great idea to have a parenting coordinator, whether your case is active or inactive. It’s a good thing to get one appointed when you need it.
Some of the better ones handle a lot of these issues through email. So if an issue comes up, the party with an issue can email their concern to the parenting coordinator, parenting coordinator emails to the other side, asking for a response, other side emails back.
And you might have a decision from the parenting coordinator in a matter of hours resolving these little issues. So if that sounds like something that you may be interested in, but want some help or have some questions about that. I mean, contact an attorney. If you want to talk to somebody at my office, go to makelaweasy.com.