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What is a Parenting Coordinator?

By Ullian Associates of The Law Firm of Ullian & Associates, P.C. on April 23, 2020

The role of Parenting Coordinators has expanded and become more prevalent in the last 15 years.  The Parenting Coordinator provides “parenting coordination” services, which is defined in Massachusetts as “a child-focused process in which the parties work with a parenting coordinator in an effort to reduce the effects or potential effects of conflict on the child or children involved in the parenting plan.”[1]  Massachusetts requires Parenting Coordinators to be an experienced and licensed attorney, psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, therapist, or mental health counselor and undergo annual training.

Married parents disagree over parenting issues such as how to discipline the child, whether to send a child to summer camp, or how to treat their child with ADHD.  So once the parents are separated it is inevitable that some disagreements will arise over parenting decisions.  A Parenting Coordinator can help parents communicate, facilitate decisions, and reduce stress for the child.  In Massachusetts, Parenting Coordinators can help the parents resolve numerous issues.  These include the following: minor changes to the parenting plan; the time and place for exchanging the children; contact with significant others; religious observances; and education.  Parenting Coordinators should also develop a system with the parents for communication between them.

Parenting Coordinators can be agreed upon by the parties or ordered by a judge.  In either situation the agreement or Order must be clear on the scope of authority, duration of appointment, and compensation for the Parent Coordinator.  The judge cannot appoint a Parenting Coordinator unless one party agrees to pay for the services.  Coordinators are not allowed to communicate with the court, testify as an expert, give legal advice or therapy, or facilitate an agreement changing custody.  A Parenting Coordinator is not needed in most cases, but under the right circumstances he or she can be very beneficial.

For more information on divorce and custody or to schedule your free telephone or Zoom consultation with The Law Firm of Ullian & Associates, P.C., contact us here.

[1] Massachusetts Probate and Family Court Standing Order 1-17 (2)(a).

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