The End of Parenting Coordinators

Parenting Coordinators (PC's) are attorneys or mental health professionals (generally attorneys) who have received extensive training in mediation and experience in dealing with high-conflict custody cases. PC's assist high-conflict parents in facilitating the resolution of smaller custody disputes in a timely manner and by educating those parents in better resolution strategies. PC's are only appointed with the agreement of the parties and the court. They make recommendations that the Judge may (or may not) approve.

PC's are empowered to decide "minor" custody issues such as whether kids should use #7 or #8 sunscreen, take aspirin or Tylenol, drink pop or not etc. This keeps such matters outside of court and also educates both parents in better co-parenting practices so that the parties can better resolve such issues themselves. The goal of any parent coordinator is to render themselves unnecessary through education of the parties. PC"s are not permitted to resolve "major" issues such as custody time, choosing a school and the like.

Parties, judge's and attorneys have all been pleased with the success of the program in Pennsylvania. In fact, Parent Coordinators were explicitly approved in the Superior Court case of Yates v. Yates Then a task force submitted a report in 2011 that recommended specific guidelines for PC's to follow, based upon existing PA law and existing guidelines from the American Psychological Association and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts. The Supreme Court was given proposed Rule 104 to enshrine PC's in PA law.

Parenting coordination is a program lauded by parties, judge's, attorneys, mental health professionals and child advocates. It is becoming more and more common across the US. So, recently when faced with adopting a court Rule providing guidelines for this highly successful program, the PA Supreme Court acted as only the PA Supreme Court can. They not only rejected the proposed Rule but banned the program altogether - becoming the first and only US Court to reject parenting coordinators. PC's were banned by a May 23, 2013 PA Rule of Civil Procedure 1915.11-1 titled "Elimination of Parent Coordinators". The new rule prohibits anyone other than masters and hearing officers from making recommendations concerning custody to the court. This was done despite existing case-law, statutory law and procedure to the contrary.

The Supreme Court declined to give any reason for this unusual decision or to permit comment on the new Rule before it went into effect. So we do not know why the court decided to eliminate parent coordinators. Whatever the reason, "high conflict" custody cases must now be resolved through the Court, leading to greater expense, poorer results and an additional strain upon trial courts.