Statements Made to a Parenting Coordinator Are Not Confidential
Video Transcribed: Tips for utilizing a Parenting Coordinator in Oklahoma. I’m Family law attorney James Wirth and I’m about to go over some tips for using a PC. All right. So I’ve done nine prior videos to this discussing a lot of the issues relating to Parenting Coordinator.
But as typical when I do a series like that, I notice afterwards that there’s some issues that I left out. So the tips is kind of to go over those things that I left out to make sure I’ve got all the information that you may need if you’ve got a family law case, a custody case and are looking at the potential of having a Parenting Coordinator involved.
So first off, a Parenting Coordinator is limited in their authority and what they can and cannot do and that is limited by statute, but also case law. So the statute is pretty clear that they can’t make permanent orders regarding custody by making a decision, but can they make a recommendation for a change of custody and that’s actually a case I was involved in.
Had a client who I did not represent them at the trial level, but they went to a trial level, the PC had recommended that custody change from mom to dad. That issue went before the judge, the judge signed off on that change based on the recommendation to the Parenting Coordinator. And then I handled the appeal and we took that to the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals and the Oklahoma Supreme Court because we felt that the Parenting Coordinator went beyond their capacity under the law on what they’re allowed to do.
And that was decided in our favor and the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals decision that was published by the Oklahoma Supreme Court said, “Yeah, a Parenting Coordinator is not a custody evaluator. It’s not a Guardian Ad Litem.
It is supposed to be a neutral party and we don’t want them advocating for permanent changes and they cannot make recommendations.” So that now is law in Oklahoma and that’s in the case that I handled and that is now precedent that can be used all throughout because it is a published case. So can PCs recommend a change in custody? They cannot, they should not, they shouldn’t be involved in big things like that. They should handle the small issues.
Okay. Another thing I wanted to make sure that we knew about which is that statements made to a Parenting Coordinator are not confidential. This is not an attorney client relationship that you have. So anything you tell the Parenting Coordinator, you better expect that it could be made in a report that’s published in the court file which could be open to the general public. So that’s got to be known.
Third, discovery. The law specifically provides for discovery during the appointment of a Parenting Coordinator. When the Parenting Coordinator is proposed by another party and makes disclosures, then you’re having to decide whether you want to object to that appointment. The law does allow you to do discovery, to send requests for additional information and answering of different questions.
It’s not commonly done at all and by doing discovery, you do risk upsetting the Parenting Coordinator by making the Parenting Coordinator do more work. When that’s the Parenting Coordinator you want deciding in your favor, that’s a risky proposition. And additionally, that means any additional work on the Parenting Coordinator is additional cost that’s going to be split between the parties. So that’s another factor as well.
In the statute, it does not talk about discovery after the Parenting Coordinator is appointed, but the typical order that’s used in Tulsa County that’s provided on the Tulsa County District Court’s website does talk about the potential for discovery, but pursuant to that order requires the parties to seek approval from the court before doing discovery to the Parenting Coordinator or subpoenaing the Parenting Coordinator to testify.
So additionally, tip here is be proactive in handling Parenting Coordinator reports. So once you have a meeting with a Parenting Coordinator, whether in person or through email or whatever that should result in recommendations and decisions by the Parenting Coordinator and then the Parenting Coordinator should have those submitted out within 20 days. Just because they’re submitting them out within 20 days and providing them to the parties does not mean that the PC is filing them with the court.
You want to make sure that they get filed with the court. You want to make sure that notice gets to the other party so that that timeline to them to file an objection goes by. So if you like that order, you file it with the court, you send it to the other side, they have 10 days to file an objection.
If they don’t object, then you draft an order, making that an order of the court and submit that to the court. So if you want to properly utilize a Parenting Coordinator, you want to be proactive in making sure those steps get done so that recommendations become decisions become orders.
Lastly. The Parenting Coordinator is not allowed to have ex parte communication with the judge just like the parties can’t. So you don’t have to worry about your telling stuff to the Parenting Coordinator and the Parenting Coordinator’s going to be whispering that secretly in the judge’s ear or that they’re going to be talking about your case without you present. That is prohibited.
Any conversation that the Parenting Coordinator has with the judge generally is done only through the reports of the Parenting Coordinator that’s filed in the case. In rare circumstances, a Parenting Coordinator may be called to testify, but most of the time it’s through the reports and it would be improper for the Parenting Coordinator to contact the judge without the other parties being present. So those are the additional tips.
If there’s other questions that anybody has regarding Parenting Coordinators in Oklahoma and how to utilize them, if you want to talk to an attorney about your specific circumstances, if you want to talk to somebody at my office, you can go to makelaweasy.com.