Taffy Brodesser-Anker’s new novel, Fleishman Is in Trouble, begins with an all too familiar premise. Its main character, Toby, is grappling with his new reality of life after divorce and co-parenting with his ex, Rachel. He wakes up to a text message from her that reads, “I’m headed to Kripalu for the weekend; the kids are at your place FYI.” Unbeknownst to him, Rachel had dropped the kids off at Toby’s home in the middle of the night during her parenting time.
Although the author is not herself divorced, she perfectly captures the feeling many parties have once their case is over:
“He couldn’t understand what the goal of having all these agreements in place was if she wasn’t going to even pretend to adhere to them, or apologize when she didn’t.”
We often see parties who spend significant amounts of time and money negotiating the minutiae of their parenting agreement (called an Allocation Judgment), only to have one or both parents veer from its terms once the divorce is finished. In most cases, the Allocation Judgment contains a dispute resolution clause that requires the parties to attend mediation prior to seeking court intervention absent an emergency. Apart from mediation and further litigation, another option exists for high-conflict parties: the Parenting Coordinator.
A Parenting Coordinator is appointed by the court when the parties fail to cooperate or communicate on issues involving their children. When mediation hasn’t been successful or isn’t appropriate, when the Court finds it would be in the children’s best interests to have a Parenting Coordinator. In some cases, one is appointed by agreement of the parties.
Unlike a mediator, the communication between all parties and the Parenting Coordinator are not confidential (unless otherwise agreed). That difference is crucial, as it allows the Parenting Coordinator to make recommendations both to the parties and to the court. Those recommendations can include approaches to reducing conflict, guidelines for communication, and outside resources such as drug screening, parenting classes, and/or therapy. However, the recommendations cannot relate to allocation of parental responsibilities issues, visitation by a non-parent, or relocation.
While the final decision-making power remains in the Judge’s hands, the appointment of a Parenting Coordinator can help reduce conflict and keep parents out of court. If you think a Parenting Coordinator may be right for your family, contact us and we can help identify the right personality for you.
Kaitlin Post; Associate