In a previous blog post, we discussed the definition of the term “parenting coordinator,” as well as the concept of “parenting coordination.” In that post, we reviewed the qualifications of a parenting coordinator under the statue in the state of Maryland, including education, training, experience, and continuing education requirements. We also reviewed how the list is maintained by individual counties, as well as how the court may go about approving the parenting coordinator in a specific case. Finally, our previous blog post also discussed the appointment of the parenting coordinator during a divorce, as well as after a divorce proceeding has been finalized. Parenting coordinators may be appointed by the court, or employed by the parties.
In this blog post, we review the various services a parenting coordinator provides under the statute in the state of Maryland.
Services Provided by a Parenting Coordinator
In the Beginning
The services provided by a parenting coordinator depend, in part on the circumstances and situations each individual family may find themselves in at a given time. For example, in certain cases, particularly at the beginning of a separation with an eye towards divorce, custody and visitation orders may not be in place. In this situation, an appointed parenting coordinator works with the parties to develop an agreed-upon plan. The plan addresses both custody and visitation of the child or children of the parties.
Once an Order is in Place
In some cases, there may already be a custody and visitation order in place. Unfortunately, custody and visitation orders are sometimes subject to different interpretations. A parenting coordinator works with the parties to amicably resolve disputes regarding the appropriate interpretation of a custody or visitation order. Additionally, a parenting coordinator may work with the parties to assure compliance with the order.
Sometimes, it becomes apparent to the parties and the parenting coordinator that the current custody and visitation order no longer works for the parties. In such a situation, the parenting coordinator, with the agreement of the parties, makes a joint recommendation to the court, suggesting changes to the visitation or custody order, to accommodate the current situation of the parties.
In post judgment disputes, parenting coordinators also make determinations about custody and visitation. However, their abilities are limited to making minor, temporary modifications to child access provisions previously ordered by the court. This occurs only the court authorizes this in the original judgment. Additionally, the parties must agree either in writing or on the record, to additional modifications.
Parenting coordinators also educate the parties about making decisions and implementing decisions in the best interest of the child. Parenting coordinators also assist the parties in developing guidelines for appropriate communication between the parties.
Many parents possess the ability to discuss the children’s custody and visitation schedule via phone. However, for some couples, for whatever reason, this approach does not work. In this situation, the parenting coordinator assists the parties in exploring alternate communication options. For example, some parties find it easier to communicate by text. Other parties find an Internet-based system of communication works in meeting their family’s needs. A parenting coordinator typically possesses extensive experience with a variety of different types of communication. Ideally, the parties, who do not necessarily communicate well in person, will identify and implement a communication method that works for the family.
Parenting coordinators can suggest other resources that may be available to assist the parties if they continue to share the responsibility of raising their children.
Some parties find that they inevitably fall into old, negative patterns of communication, which increase conflict between the parties. A parenting coordinator can assist the parties in identifying and subsequently modifying their behavior patterns. Parenting coordinators can also help parents develop strategies to manage and reduce opportunities for conflict regarding custody and visitation. The goal, of course, is to reduce conflict and the impact of any conflict on the children of the parties.
Involving the Court
On rare occasions, a parenting coordinator produces documents for the court. Generally, this occurs upon issuance of a subpoena. A parenting coordinator may also testify as a fact witness in a subsequent hearing.
Where the parenting coordinator has concerns about the immediate physical or emotional safety of a party or a child, they communicate this to the court directly, or to court personnel. The information, once conveyed, can result in an immediate hearing on the issue.
Services Not Provided
Generally speaking, and with limited exceptions as discussed above, parenting coordinators do not communicate with the court or court personnel. Further, when testifying they do so as fact witnesses, not expert witnesses. (This becomes relevant as the rules for expert testimony vary from the rules for fact witnesses.)
With the exception of post-judgement determinations allowed by court order and the agreement of the parties, parenting coordinators are not authorized to make parenting decisions.
If You Have Children and Are Considering Divorce
If you have children, and are considering a divorce, or if you are considering seeking modification of a prior custody or visitation order of the court, contact the attorneys at Fait & DiLima. Our Rockville and Fredrick divorce attorneys dedicate their practice to family law issues. Consequently, we are well prepared to handle your child custody and child visitation issues. Every family is different. Every family has different needs, wants, and desires for how child custody and child visitation will work best for them. We focus on providing you and your family the information you need about the options available. We work together to find solutions that work best for your family.
Contact us to discuss your current situation today.