Parenting Coordinator Issues

Experienced family law and divorce attorneys here in Guilford County deal with a lot of difficult child custody cases. In especially difficult cases, known as high conflict cases, the court may appoint a parenting coordinator. According to N.C.G.S. §50-90, a high conflict case is defined as “a child custody action involving minor children where the parties demonstrate an ongoing pattern of any of the following:

1.   Excessive litigation.

2.   Anger and distrust.

3.   Verbal abuse.

4.   Physical aggression or threats of physical aggression.

5.   Difficulty communicating about and cooperating in the care of the minor children.

6.   Conditions that in the discretion of the court warrant the appointment of a parenting coordinator.”

Therefore, the court may appoint a parenting coordinator where it has become clear that the parties are not going to be able to resolve issues on their own. This is especially true when there are factors indicating that the parties need someone who acts as a sort of go-between. If typical discussions between the two parties over simple things regarding their children generally devolve into heated arguments, especially those that turn physical, the court may determine that a parenting coordinator is necessary. 

Parenting coordinators have special training in dealing with difficult custody cases. The parenting coordinator is usually an attorney or a mental health professional. N.C.G.S. §50-93 lists qualifications that must be met by the parenting coordinator. These include:

1.   “Holding a masters or doctorate degree in psychology, law, social work, counseling, medicine, or a related subject area.

2.   Having at least 5 years of a related professional post-degree experience.

3.   Holding a current license in the parenting coordinator’s area of practice.

4.   Participating in 24 hours of training in topics related to the developmental stages of children, the dynamics of high-conflict families, the stages and effects of divorce, problem solving techniques, mediation, and legal issues.” 

Having met all of the qualifications necessary to be a parenting coordinator, the coordinator can then meet with both parents over parenting disputes. For example, the parents cannot agree on whether to enroll the child in soccer. The parenting coordinator may have the authority to resolve the dispute. If so, the parenting coordinator may be able to find a compromise between the two parents that otherwise would not have been possible if the parties had attempted to resolve the dispute on their own. 

The court order appointing the parenting coordinator defines the powers of the parenting coordinator. Thus, the parenting coordinator cannot be beyond the powers described in the court order, anything else is outside the scope of the parenting coordinator’s authority. According to N.C.G.S. §50-92, the authority of a parenting coordinator “shall be limited to matters that will aid the parties:

1.   Identify disputed issues.

2.   Reduce misunderstandings.

3.   Clarify priorities.

4.   Explore possibilities for compromise.

5.   Develop methods of collaboration in parenting.

6.   Comply with the court’s order of custody, visitation, or guardianship.”

In difficult child custody cases, the court will sometimes determine that appointing a parenting coordinator is in the best interests of the parties involved. Our knowledgeable family law and divorce attorneys here at Woodruff Family Law Group have experience dealing with cases involving parenting coordinators. 

Further, just for reference there are possible North Carolina Constitutional issues with our Parenting Coordinator statute, so if you are up for that challenge, please see Carolyn J. Woodruff.