Published in Family Law by Chris Eskew on October 14, 2016.
On September 2, 2016, the Indiana Supreme Court issued an order modifying the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines to include provisions for Parenting Coordination. While parenting coordination is not new to Indiana, this is the first time that the Supreme Court has added specific rules regarding the role of parenting coordinators in the Parenting Time Guidelines, and the law now provides that these coordinators may be court ordered. These provisions are now found under Section V of the guidelines. The new rules go into effect on January 1, 2017, and will not modify or terminate any existing parenting coordination agreements.
What is Parenting Coordination?
Parenting coordination is defined as “a court ordered, child-focused dispute resolution process in which a Parenting Coordinator is appointed to assist high conflict parties by accessing and managing conflicts, redirecting the focus of the parties to the needs of the child, and educating the parties on how to make decisions that are in the best interest of the child.”
A Parent Coordinator may serve by agreement of the parties or by formal order of the court. A formal order must clearly and specifically define the Parenting Coordinator’s scope of authority and responsibilities. The court may, with the consent of the parties or on its own motion, appoint a Parenting Coordinator when it determines that it is in the child’s best interest to do so. If a court appoints a Parenting Coordinator without the consent of both parties, the order must include a written explanation as to why the appointment is appropriate in the case.
What are the Parenting Coordinator’s responsibilities?
The role of the Parenting Coordinator includes:
- Assessing the family and the family’s litigation history;
- Educating the parties as to the impact their behavior has on the child;
- Facilitating conflict management;
- Assisting the parties in the development of parenting plans and alternative resolutions to other disputes;
- Making reports or recommendations to the parties and the court in the event the parties are not able to resolve disputes on their own.
It is important to note that Parenting Coordinators may not offer legal advice to the parties. The Parenting Coordinator must remain independent and impartial when dealing with the parties. The coordinator has a duty to report any criminal activity or abuse as required by state law. The guidelines provide that communications with the Parenting Coordinator are not confidential.
Who may serve as a Parenting Coordinator?
Parenting Coordination is performed by an individual appointed by the court. The individual must be a registered Indiana Domestic Relations Mediator who has additional training or experience in parenting coordination. Under certain circumstances, an individual who does not meet these qualifications may obtain a waiver in order to be appointed as a Parenting Coordinator.
How long does a Parenting Coordinator serve?
The parties may agree on the length of the appointment of the Parenting Coordinator, but the initial term of appointment is not to exceed two years. However, the court may extend the appointment upon a showing of good cause. The court may terminate the service of the Parenting Coordinator at any time upon finding that there is no longer a need for the services. The Parenting Coordinator’s services may also be terminated if continuing efforts by the coordinator are no longer in the best interest of the child, the child reaches the age of majority, or the child no longer lives with a party. A Parenting Coordinator may resign by providing notice to the parties and the court, and the court must approve the resignation. During the first six months of the appointment, the parties cannot request judicial review of the Parenting Coordinator’s appointment. After this initial six month period, a party may petition the court for termination or modification of the appointment. Neither party may terminate the services of a court-appointed Parenting Coordinator without an order from the court.
Do I need a Parenting Coordinator?
Parenting Coordination may not be appropriate for all families. Parenting Coordination is intended for “high-conflict parties.” High-conflict parties are parties who have ongoing disagreements and conflict that interfere with the parties’ ability to communicate and resolve issues regarding the care of the child, parenting time schedules, or other issues that adversely affect the child.
If you need assistance in determining whether Parenting Coordination may be beneficial to you and your family, contact the experienced family law attorneys at Eskew Law.