When a custody order is entered by the Court it delineates how custody of the children will be divided, timewise. You’ve seen these a hundred different ways in a hundred different movies and TV shows – the judge announces a custody schedule, the parties are somewhat okay with the decision under the circumstances, everyone goes home, life goes on.
That does happen, sometimes. The thing about custody, though, is that it can get somewhat complicated somewhat quickly just due to the ebb and flow and demands of work, school, and life on people.
And . . . things pop up out of nowhere. We’re writing this in the middle of a pandemic. Schools have closed, reopened, closed again; people have been quarantined; travel can be complex. All this can put strain on any custody agreement or order. To say it is stressful is an understatement.
And while Court Orders attempt to define legal custody (which is another way to say decision making), an order cannot possibly address all the decisions which need to be made when raising children.
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If your relationship with your ex or soon to be ex is antagonistic or adversarial or just not very good, it is nearly impossible to agree upon tweaks to the schedule that may need to be made, let alone decisions about education or medical treatment.
When that occurs, trying to work things out with an unwilling co-parent adds more stress and animosity to an already stressful and antagonistic situation.
This, obviously, is not a healthy situation for either parent.
Worse, it is indisputably bad for the child.
Luckily, North Carolina is one of the few states that has provisions in place for the appointment of a Parenting Coordinator.
What is a Parenting Coordinator?
AParenting Coordinator is a lawyer or therapist appointed by the Court to work with parents to make the decisions that are necessary for children to have the appropriate structure and schedules needed to thrive.
Parent Coordinators are there for the child. They are highly trained, neutral third parties assigned to custody cases to reduce the level of conflict and assist parents in making the decisions that are beyond the scope of the custody order.
Parenting Coordinators are neutral. They take no side while they assist parents by identifying the real issues being disputed; defusing misunderstandings; establishing priorities; discussing compromises and, perhaps most importantly, establishing and maintaining 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’ Custody Order and make decisions regarding the implementation of the Order.
When is a Parenting Coordinator Appropriate?
Parents who find themselves at frequent impasse over custody issues can consent to use a Parent Coordinator. When they do, they may name their own Parenting Coordinator and may specify what issues the Coordinator has say over. Also, when the Court determines that a custody case is high-conflict, it can appoint a Parenting Coordinator to assist the family.
The benefits of utilizing a Parenting Coordinator are readily evident, particularly when parents find themselves deadlocked. The Parenting Coordinator will work with the parents to find a quick, efficient and ultimately cost-effective solution that will always have the best interest of the child at heart. And if the parents are not able to reach a solution, then the Parenting Coordinator will make the decision.
Moreover, a Parenting Coordinator is trained to defuse volatile situations and bring a semblance of order and, indeed, fairness to the decision process. Stress, anger, and recriminations are vastly reduced.
Employing a Parenting Coordinator reduces – if not eliminates – the need to bring matter after matter to Court to ask a judge to make the decision.
Using a Parenting Coordinator, then, saves stress, reduces animosity, and saves money and the uncertainty of a court appearance. And, again, it’s a great way to do the what is ultimately best for a child—reduce the animosity between the parents.