Pursuant to Cook County Rule 13.10, the Court may appoint a parenting coordinator when it finds the following:
- The parties failed to adequately cooperate and communicate with regard to issues involving their children, or have been unable to implement a parenting plan or parenting schedule;
- Mediation has not been successful or has been determined by the judge to be inappropriate; or
- The appointment of a parenting coordinator is in the best interests of the child or children involved in the proceedings.
- Notwithstanding #1 – #3, the Court may also appoint a parenting coordinator by agreement between the parties.
The parenting coordinator has many duties, including the following:
- Educating, mediating, and monitoring court orders, and making recommendations to the court as necessary. Additionally, the parenting coordinator may recommend approaches that will reduce conflict between parents and eliminate unnecessary stress for the children.
- Monitoring parental behaviors and mediating disputes concerning parenting issues. Also, the parenting coordinator may report any allegations of noncompliance to the court.
- Recommending outside resources as needed, such as random drug screens, parenting classes and psychotherapy.
- Recommending detailed guidelines or rules for communication between parents.
- Maintaining communication among all parties by serving, if necessary, as a conduit for information.
- Meeting with the parties, the children, and significant others jointly or separately.
- Listening and mediating disagreements or concerns between the parents regarding the children.
- Resolving conflict between the parties by working with both parents and recommending appropriate resolutions.
However, there are strict limits to the parenting coordinator’s responsibilities. The parenting coordinator shall not have any legal decision-making authority, as the court retains this power solely. Additionally, the parenting coordinator must not serve as a custody evaluator, such as a 604(b) or 604.5, in any proceeding involving one or more parties for whom the parenting coordinator has provided parenting coordination services.
While it might be difficult, the parenting coordinator shall not be permitted to give a recommendation or opinion concerning the ultimate issue of fact, law or mixed issue of fact and law as it relates to child custody, the primary physical residence of the child, or visitation. Along that same vein, a parenting coordinator cannot be charged with malpractice. No parenting coordinator shall be held liable for civil damages for any act or omission in the scope of the parenting coordinator’s employment or function, unless such person acted in bad faith or with malicious purpose, or in a manner exhibiting wanton and willful disregard of the rights, safety or property of another.
In sum, while it may be expensive to retain a parenting coordinator, especially while undergoing the divorce process, it may be beneficial for you, your spouse, and most importantly, the minor children. Parenting coordinators can bring relief to a struggling family and prevent a great deal of litigation stemming from visitation and parenting issues.