What Does A Court Order Appointing A Parenting Time Coordinator Look Like?
As a child custody lawyer for the past 20 years, I have observed many developments in New Jersey law. One, from the attorney’s perspective, has been a modern advancement of judges of New Jersey Family Court’s appointing Parenting Coordinators. These professionals (who are typically either attorneys experienced in family law or a child psychologist) are court ordered to be involved in cases in which the parents have trouble agreeing on almost all issues regarding their children. I have found these professionals to be quite effective in bringing parents together for the best interests of their children. Below, please find a hypothetical New Jersey court order that not only appoints a parenting coordinator, but the responsibilities of all parties involved:
DONNA SMITHSUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY
Plaintiff, CHANCERY DIVISION-FAMILY PART
COUNTY OF MIDDLESEX
v. DOCKET NO. FD-9999-12
ANTHONY SMITH CIVIL ACTION
THIS MATTER having been opened by the Court on its own motion, or on the application of Susan Bush, Esq., attorneys for the __Plaintiff __ Defendant, on notice to Mark Douglas Esq. appearing on behalf of __Plaintiff __Defendant, and the Court having determined that it is in the best interests of the children that a Parenting Coordinator be appointed to assist the parties in resolving their conflicts as here defined; and good cause having been shown;
IT IS ON THIS 15TH DAY OF February, 2012, ORDERED AS FOLLOWS:
- APPOINTMENT: To be determined by parties, Michael Greene is appointed as Parenting Coordinator for the term of 2/19/12 to 2/19/13. The parties are directed to contact Mr. Greene within forty-eight hours of this order.
- ROLE OF PARENTING COORDINATOR: The Parenting Coordinator shall serve to attempt to assist the parties to resolve conflicts such as: alternating parenting time for Halloween, communicating before planning vacations, and any additional issues between the parties pertaining to parenting decisions for their child. The Parenting Coordinator also shall seek to assist the parties to learn strategies to avoid conflict regarding their child(ren). The Parenting Coordination shall not have the authority to change existing Order of the Court unless the parties consent and enter into a Consent Order. The Parenting Coordinator shall not have authority to conduct parenting time or custody evaluations or to make recommendations concerning said issues.
- NO CONFIDENTIALITY: All communications from the parties and/or their lawyers to the Parenting Coordinator and/or from the Parenting Coordinator to the parties and/or their lawyers shall not be deemed confidential, but rather shall be admissible in evidence, under New Jersey Rules of Evidence and Rules of Court.
- RECOMMENDATIONS: If the Parenting Coordinator cannot foster agreement regarding the issues assigned to him/her, then he/she will make recommendations to the parties (and their respective attorneys) directly. If their party objects to the recommendation, and refuses to be bound by the same, either party may apply to the court pursuant to the Rules for determination of the issues. In connection with any such application, either party may submit the Parenting Coordinator’s recommendation and any additional relevant evidence, in accordance with the Rules of Court. The court may assess counsel fees pursuant to the Rules in connection with said application. The parties shall provide notice to the Parenting Coordinator of any application to the court related to recommendation the Coordinator has made.
- SOURCES OF INFORMATION: Except as set for the herein, each party is ordered to provide the Parenting Coordinator with all requested information including the signing of all releases requested for non privileged collateral contacts. The Parenting Coordinator may have contact with any professional for the children. If parties agree, the Parenting Coordinator may have access to any other individual the Parenting Coordinator deems necessary to perform the coordinator’s duties. If the parties disagree as to whether the Coordinator should have access to any specific person or whether a parent has to sign an authorization pertaining to him or herself the Court shall determine the issue on application.
- SCOPE: The Parenting Coordinator shall make recommendations to the parties about issues identified in the Order of Appointment.
- PROTOCOL: Consistent with this Rule, the Parenting Coordinator may determine the protocol of all communications, interviews, and sessions including who shall or may attend the meetings.
- COMMUNICATION: The parties and their attorneys shall have the right to initiate or receive oral one-sided communication with the Parenting Coordinator but the fact of such communication shall be made known to the other party contemporaneously with its occurring through confirmatory written memorialization. Any party or counsel may communicate in writing with the Parenting Coordinator provided that copies are provided to the other party and counsel simultaneously. Copies of any documents, tape recordings or other electronic material that one party gives to the Parenting Coordinator must also be given to the other party or his/her attorney.
- ALLOCATION OF FEES: The Parenting Coordinator’s fees shall be paid by the parties as follows: plaintiff 35% and defendant 65%. In the event of a request for reallocation of fees and costs, the Parenting Coordinator may submit findings and recommendations concerning this issue.
- PARENTING COORDINATOR’S RETAINER AGREEMENT: The Parenting Coordinator’s retainer agreement shall mirror the terms of this Order of Appointment. The Parenting Coordinator’s retainer agreement shall not provide any authority beyond that set for in this Order of Appointment.
- RETAINER: The parties will pay to the Parenting Coordinator a joint retainer in the percentages referred to above, or as may be modified by the Court.
- TESTIMONY: All testimony by the Parenting Coordinator in connection with these proceedings or other proceedings involving any or all of the participants in this proceeding shall be deemed expert testimony if qualified and paid accordingly.
- COOPERATION OF THE PARTIES: In the event the Parenting Coordinator believes either party has been recalcitrant and/or non-cooperative and thereby has interfered with the parenting coordinating process, that view shall be communicated in writing to the parties and their attorneys, who may then petition the court for appropriate relief, including, but not limited to, sanctions, counsel fees, and the remedies set forth in Rule 5:3-7.
- TERMINATION/GRIEVANCE: During the term of the Parenting Coordinator’s appointment, the Coordinator may withdraw from service at any time, on ten days notice to the parties and the court, if she/he determines resignation to be in the best interests of the children or she/he is unable to serve out the term set forth in this order. A party having a complaint or grievance shall discuss the matter with the Parenting Coordinator in person in an attempt to resolve it before pursuing it in any other manner. If the issue remains unresolved, the aggrieved party shall submit a written letter detailing the complaint or grievance to the Parenting Coordinator with a copy to the other party, both attorneys (if any), and to the attorney for the child(ren) or Guardian ad Litem if one is in place. The Parenting Coordinator shall within ten (10) days provide a written response to both parties and the attorneys. The Parenting Coordinator at his/her discretion may schedule a meeting or conference call with the attorneys or with the attorneys and the parties in an effort to resolve the complaint. In situations where the grievance or complaint is not resolved by this process, the dissatisfied party may request a court hearing to address and resolve the issues that have been raised.
Honorable Lauren S. Scott, J.S.C.