Parenting Coordinator questions are frequently asked of Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. attorneys. To understand the answers, some history of custody and visitation (now called parenting time) is in order.
Less than 20 years ago, one parent was awarded physical custody by the trial court, and the other visitation. Most courts (in all counties) merely followed the Marion County Visitation Guidelines. The non-custodial parent had regular visitation one night during the week and overnights on alternating weekends.
Ultimately, the social, psychological and legal experience demonstrated that this was not optimal. Children of different ages had different needs, as did their respective parents in parenting. For this reason, the “rules” were replaced with “guidelines” to encourage divorced parents to work together to meet their needs and those of their children. These guidelines presuppose that parents move beyond the baggage of their divorce and animosity for each other.
Where this is the case, the guidelines are a tremendous tool because they have flexibility to change parenting time for the benefit of the parents and children. In other words, they account for the dynamics of life — that things change, and schedules need to be accounted for differently at different times.
On the other hand, for parents that are unable to escape the trauma of divorce, the ambiguity of the guidelines creates a never-ending war. To address this generally, and to diffuse the caustic buildup of emotions and unresolved wrongs, the concept of a parenting coordinator came of age.
Parenting coordinators are usually licensed social workers, clinical psychologists, or attorneys. What they do is act as an intermediary between the parties to open lines of communication and resolve disputes and disagreements about custody and parenting-time issues in real time. Prior to PCs, the parties were largely relegated to filing a contempt petition or motion on the issue and waiting until a trial court judge could hear it.
If there is a PC order in place, the PC sets up line(s) of communications between the parties and basically brokers a deal on disputed matters — while, along the way, trying to help the parties gain some insights into their own issues (yes, both sides are wrong from time to time).
There are two levels of PCs. Under a level II, a PC may only make recommendations. In cases where there is more acrimony, a level III PC may be appointed by the trial court. A level III PC has the ability to make a binding decision on a given issue unless it is objected to by a party and filed with the court. If this occurs, the court decides the given issue under these “guidelines.”
There are certain matters which a P.C. may not change or modify or handle as defined in the P.C. contract. These would invade the jurisdiction of the court.
This is a very new legal concept in the Indiana domestic landscape. Where one or both parties believe that ongoing disputes will occur, this is a good alternative to litigation. If this sounds like your case, you should explore the appointment of a PC with your attorney. The choice is often the uncertainties of litigation and courtroom or partnering with a third person whom is invested in your case. Which would you pick?