Sometimes when two people cannot agree on very minor issues relative to their parenting time, they will return to Court for help. The trouble is that the legal system is not designed to monitor parties’ ability to co-parent and resolve minor issues on a regular basis. Allowing litigants to frequently return to Court over minor issues clogs up the Court’s docket calendar and also may cost the parties a lot of money in attorney’s fees. Sometimes, to try and avoid parties continuously returning to Court for post-decree issues, a parenting coordinator will be appointed.
The parenting coordinator’s role is generally to try and resolve disputes between the parties. The best way to use a parenting coordinator is to determine first, which issues will be submitted to a parenting coordinator when they arise. Second, a good way to use a parenting coordinator is to make their decision binding. Some of the minor types of issues that may be submitted to a parenting coordinator include choice of school, make-up parenting time, vacation parenting time disputes, holiday parenting time disputes, and other, more minor, parenting time issues.
Attorneys will generally try to anticipate as much as they possibly can when they draft parenting plans and allocation judgments, but it is not always possible to predict every single issue that will arise. For example, a parenting plan may say that Parent A has Labor Day in even years, and that Parent B has labor day in odd years. The same parenting plan may also say that Parent A has the minor child’s birthday in odd years, and Parent B has the child’s birthday in even years. Now, for the sake of this example, let’s say the minor child’s birthday falls on the same day as Labor Day in 2016. Inadvertently, then, both Parent A and Parent B would have the same day of parenting time, since it was not anticipated that the minor child’s birthday would also fall on labor day. This would be a good issue to submit to a parenting coordinator to try and figure out how to divide the day or provide a make-up of some sort to one of the parents.
Generally, parenting coordinators are attorneys, and both parties split their fees, so that both parties have “skin in the game”, so to speak. Parenting coordinators can be useful so long as at least some of the issues submitted to them will be binding. If the decisions are not binding, they really are using a parenting coordinator as more of a mediator, and if the parties cannot resolve things in mediation, this is wasteful. However, in some situations, a parenting coordinator can save the parties money in attorney’s fees and can spare the Courts the issue of dealing with minor issues which clog up the calendar.