Sometimes the relationship between separated or divorced parents is so conflict-ridden that they're unable to co-parent their children healthily. Some states, including North Carolina, have laws that address the role of parenting coordinators (PC) in these high-conflict cases.
A high-conflict situation isn't just one where parents don't like each other or occasionally disagree on parenting issues. For a PC to be ordered, a judge must believe that a child's well-being is at risk, short-term and possibly long-term, because of a couple's inability to work together as parents.
A PC is usually mandated by the court, with specific directives regarding his or her role and responsibilities in reporting back to the court. Even if a judge doesn't order parents to work with a PC, they may choose to have one anyway. The parents are required to pay a fee whether the PC is court-ordered or not.
Parenting coordinators are usually attorneys or mental health professionals. They're a neutral party who can help parents develop the communication and problem-solving skills they need to create and stick to a parenting plan. The PC visits both parents' homes and may moderate complaints made by one parent about the other. A PC is usually involved for anywhere from one to three years.
The role of the PC should not be underestimated. His or her recommendations aren't just suggestions. If parents don't follow a PC's recommendations, there could be consequences. They are required to report to the court.
The PC can control and restrict a number of things related to children, including:
- Extracurricular activities
- Religious services
- Where parents can go and what kinds of activities they can engage in with their kids
- Who children can be around, including friends and family
This may seem like a lot of control, but it may be necessary if parents can't agree on these issues or if the children are being subjected to negative influences.
If one or both parents disagree with a PC's recommendations, they must file a motion with the court. A PC won't be replaced unless a judge agrees that there's a valid reason to do so.
If the court has ordered a PC, you need to understand what that person's role is and what your responsibilities are. Your North Carolina family law attorney can provide more information and advice for working productively with the PC for the good of your children.
Source: CustodyZen, "Parenting Coordinator," accessed April 12, 2018