Throughout the last several years, the concept of parenting coordination has been catching on in Indiana. Effectively, Parenting Coordinators (known as “PCs” in high conflict matters) help parties resolve disputes in real time so children do not miss events or time with the other parent. The only other viable option before parenting coordination was a contempt petition or other legal filing in court, which was heard after the fact.
As of January 1, 2017, the Indiana Supreme Court officially recognized Parenting Coordination; it approved rules regarding appointment and terms of service. These build on the knowledge and benefits that Parenting Coordinators have had in limited areas of Indiana for several years by the authority of trial courts in making such appointments.
Many counties in Indiana do not have any official Parenting Coordinators, nor do litigants really know the benefits of utilizing a Parenting Coordinator. Specifically, where parents have a history of not being able to agree on basic parenting decisions, many of which have guidance in the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines, PCs can decide the issue so the matter is resolved. Does this sound like your situation, in which a PC may be useful?
Although Parenting Coordinators can be very useful and provide competent assistance in cases where there has been a (moderate to severe) breakdown in the communication between the parents, there are limits to the issues that the Parenting Coordinator can address. This is because PCs are not judges who are ultimately tasked with protecting children’s best interests. These are some of the limitations of the services that the Parenting Coordinator can provide:
- The Parenting Coordinator cannot determine or resolve financial matters, such as child support or college expense issues.
- The Parenting Coordinator cannot modify the custody of a child, nor serve as a custody evaluator.
- The Parenting Coordinator cannot substantially alter the percentage of parenting time between the parties.
- The Parenting Coordinator cannot attempt to exercise judicial authority.
In addition to the above limitations, a Parenting Coordinator is limited in that they cannot act as an attorney for one party. The Parenting Coordinator may advise a party or their counsel regarding the necessity of a custody review or custody evaluation, but they themselves cannot file for same.
Thus, the objective of the parenting coordinator is to essentially mediate the matter between the parties to minimize conflict and avoid endless court filings. However, if the parties are unable to come to a resolution on their own, then a PC may provide a (binding) recommendation to the Court to resolve the issue.
Keep in mind that communications with Parenting Coordinators are not confidential in nature and therefore the parties’ communications should be appropriate and each should refrain from speaking poorly of the other party. This should not occur in any event, but a neutral Parenting Coordinator may ultimately be beneficial if one party insists on this behavior and can be called to testify in court.
To summarize, Parenting Coordinators can be of great assistance to the parties in coming to the common goal in the best interests of the child and in reacting to issues that arise in real time. However, as outlined above, there are limits to actions that a Parenting Coordinator can take and knowledge of those limits should give the parties some comfort in utilizing a Parenting Coordinator as a tool to improve their ability to communicate and resolve everyday parenting time matters.
This blog post was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. The purpose of this blog is educational in nature and attempts to explain the complex factual background and decisions that one might consider before speaking with counsel. Ultimately, as a general rule, a potential party with a child-related matter should meet with family law counsel before filing with the court. PCs are one of the many tools in family law your counsel may seek to utilize to help normalize post-divorce custody disputes.
Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. handles complex financial and custody and parenting time cases in family law matters throughout the state. This blog is not intended to be legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.