What a Parenting Coordinator Can Do For You That a Judge Can’t

by Attorney Talia Simonds

What a Parenting Coordinator Can Do For You That a Judge Can’t

Parenting Coordinators are becoming increasingly popular for divorced or separated co-parents.  A Parenting Coordinator is a family law attorney or mental health professional who works divorced and separated parents to “referee” disputes about custody and co-parenting.  In most cases, the Parenting Coordinate has the authority to step in the shoes of the judge and resolve disputes with the same authority the judge has.  Although parents will always have the right to have a Probate and Family Court judge address a co-parenting dispute, PC’s are becoming more popular amongst co-parents, because there are something that a Parenting Coordinator can do that a judge can’t.  Here are just some of the things a PC can do, that a judge can’t do:

  1. Resolve a dispute quickly

A Parenting Coordinator can oftentimes resolve a dispute in just a matter of days.  Oftentimes, parents can email or call the Parenting Coordinator with a new dispute, and work with the PC over the next few days to resolve the dispute.  Some disputes can be resolved by simply exchanging emails between the PC and co-parents.  In other circumstances, the dispute can be resolved by a conference call between the PC and co-parents, or even via videoconference, such as Zoom.  Less frequency, the PC will require in-person meetings with either or both parents to resolve a dispute.  

However, because a PC can use email, telephone, and videoconference, rather than in person meetings like a court hearing would require, the PC can work with co-parents to resolve a dispute, sometimes in little as 24-48 hours.  Otherwise, a PC can typically work with co-parents to resolve a dispute over the course of only a few days.  Since issues relative to children and co-parenting are typically quite fluid, having conflicts addressed quickly by a PC is preferable to filing something with the court and waiting weeks, if not months, to see the judge to resolve the dispute.  

  1. The Parenting Coordinator can devote time to Co-Parents and their case

The unfortunate reality of the Probate and Family Court is that the Court is severely backlogged, and the judge have a very limited amount of time to hear each case.  Oftentimes, motion hearings are only 5-15 minutes long for any given cases, which give the judge a very limited amount of time to meet a family, get to know the family, and make lasting decisions to impact that family.  In Pre-Trial Conferences, a judge may have 30-45 minutes to hear one case, but that still is very limited too.  It’s not until a case goes to trial that a Probate and Family Court judge truly gets to hear details about a specific case.  Since less than 5% of all cases in the Probate and Family Court go to trial, judges rarely to get this stage of a case, and have limited time to devote to any specific case.  

A Parenting Coordinator, on the other hand, does not have thousands of cases to manage, like a Probate and Family Court judge.  A PC oftentimes has the support staff in their firm, such as paralegals and legal assistants, to help the PC with more administrative tasks.  Because of this, the PC can devote more time and resources to getting to know their co-parent clients, and a PC can take the time to get the information necessary to work with that family and make decisions on the case.  Unlike a Probate and Family Court judge, who has very limited time, a PC can take longer than 15 minutes at any given time to give the co-parents the time they need to address a specific issue.  A PC can devote as much time as necessary to working with co-parents to resolve disputes, and oftentimes, disputes need more than 15-45 minutes to be addressed.  

  1. The Parenting Coordinator can review documents and talk to third parties

As long as the co-parents permit it, the PC can review any documents either parent submits to the PC and speak with third parties (such as teachers, doctors, and therapists), to get the necessary information to resolve any dispute amongst co-parents.  The PC can then devote the time necessary to speak with any person necessary and review any documents parents submit to address any dispute.  

Although, in theory, a judge has similar authority, the reality is that because judges are so backlogged, they don’t have the time or resources to review documents or hear third party testimony outside of an evidentiary hearing or trial.  Even then, a judge will only hear the testimony of a third party, which is more an examination by the attorneys, and less of a dialog.  Given the very structured format that this testimony and evidence is given to the judge, in accordance with the Rules of Evidence, it restricts the judge’s ability to engage in a dialog that may be necessary to resolve a dispute.  

Since a PC is not bound by the Rules of Evidence, the PC can have a dialog with third parties to get necessary information and take as much time necessary to review any documents either parent submits.  

  1. A Parenting Coordinator can get to know the co-parents and family

Because a PC has the time and resources to speak with the family and get information and documents to resolve disputes, the PC also will then get to know the family over time in a way that judges just simply can’t do.  Through this the PC will get to understand the co-parenting dynamic and the needs of the family.  This will help the PC in working with the co-parents as time goes on, as the PC will know the family better, which will help in issuing any decisions relative to co-parenting disputes.  Most PC’s are appointed to work with a family for 1-2 years, which gives the PC the benefit of getting to know the family over time.

  1. The Parenting Coordinator can introduce other resources to co-parents

Many PC’s are knowledgeable of other resources available to high conflict parents to help them with co-parenting.  Sometime these resources are as simple as reading a website or blog online, or reading a book recommended by the PC.  In other circumstances, PC’s are aware of classes, seminars, or support groups that can help one or both parents.  There are many resources available to divorce and separated parents.  PC’s typically have the time to learn what these resources, and recommend these resources to parents.  Although parents are not obligated to follow through with these resources, this is an extra tool that the PC can use.  Judges, however, are not always aware of these resources, and don’t always have the authority to order a parent to use these resources, even if the judge is aware of the resources.  

Although a Probate and Family Court judge has the final say in any issue regarding custody, parenting time, and co-parenting, their time and resources are limited.  The judge may not always have the time necessary to work with a family to resolve the issues permanently.  A Parenting Coordinator, on the other hand, has a lot more time, availability, and resources, to work with a family to resolve any co-parenting disputes, and can be a great substitute to seeing a judge for many issues.  Attorney Talia Simonds is the Parenting Coordinator at Amaral & Associates, P.C., and can help you and your co-parent work through any disputes with the time and resources needed for your family.

For more information about Parenting Coordinators or getting a divorce or modification during the Coronavirus, or if you want to move your divorce or family law issue forward then please contact Amaral & Associates P.C. today at (617) 539-1010.

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