What is a Parenting Coordinator in an Arizona Child Custody Case?
Role of a Parenting Coordinators in Arizona Child Custody Cases
If children are involved in your case, and you have joint legal decision making and are experiencing significant or recurring disagreements regarding decisions affecting your children, you may consider appointing a Parenting Coordinator in your Arizona child custody case. But what is a Parenting Coordinator in an Arizona child custody case?
A Parenting Coordinator is typically a mental health professional, although there are Arizona family law attorneys and others listed on the approved Parenting Coordinator Roster, who act as Parenting Coordinators. Parenting Coordinators who are appointed by the court are available to assist parents in resolving day to day disputes that may arise between parents regarding small changes to the parenting time schedule and regarding disputes about the major decisions affecting the children, such as where they will attend school.
The Parenting Coordinator will either speak with you on the phone or bring both parties into their office when one of the parents notifies him or her of a dispute regarding the children. The Parenting Coordinator will listen to what both parents have to say and review the evidence the parties present. The Parenting Coordinator will try to help the parents reach an agreement on a disputed issue. If he or she is unable to mediate the issue, they will issue a report and recommendation to the Court and both parents regarding his or her opinion as to what should be done to resolve the dispute.
The court will often adopt a Parenting Coordinator’s recommendation as the order of the court unless either party objects. If either party objects to the recommendations of the Parenting Coordinator, the court will set a hearing, listen to the evidence presented by both sides, and issue a ruling he or she believes to be in the best interests of the children.
Limits to a Parenting Coordinator’s Powers
It is important to know what a Parenting Coordinator may do and what they may not do in your case. A Parenting Coordinator may only deal with decisions affecting the child. For example, such decisions would include which doctor the child goes to, which school the child attends, disagreements regarding the child’s participation in extra-curricular activities. Enforcement of the existing parenting schedule ordered by the court, and minor changes in that parenting time, such as when a parent may pick up the child for his or her parenting time.
The Parenting Coordinator is not permitted to make significant changes to the parenting schedule the court has ordered. They may, however, from time to time make minor changes to the parenting schedule. They cannot, however, make substantial changes to the parenting schedule or decisions or recommendations regarding any financial issues such as child support. They are also prohibited from dealing with child support issues or any other issues related to the final divorce decree.
Having a Parenting Coordinator assigned to your case will very likely save you time and money when you have frequent disagreements regarding issues affecting your child. If you don’t have a Parenting Coordinator in place, you are left with two options. One option is to file a motion with the court, wait several months for a hearing, wait for the judge to issue a ruling on the issue, and most likely incur attorney fees. This process can take months to complete.
If you have a Parenting Coordinator appointed in your case, you can pick up the phone, speak to your Parenting Coordinator, and can typically expect to receive a recommendation within a few days. That recommendation will normally be adopted by the Court as the order of the Court soon after that. If either party files an objection to the report, the Court is required to hold a hearing to enable the Court to issue a ruling on the issue then. We often recommend the appointment of a Parenting Coordinator if it is evident there will be an ongoing conflict between the parents to protect our clients from having to come back and pay our law firm to litigate ongoing issues continuously.
You should also understand that, although a judge may appoint a Parenting Coordinator to make recommendations regarding issues concerning your children, the court cannot delegate the judge’s obligation to provide the parents an opportunity to object to those recommendations, the court’s obligation to allow the parties to present evidence at a trial based upon those objections, and the trial court’s duty to independently issue orders based on the evidence presented at that trial. You should read our summary of the Arizona Court of Appeals decision in the Depasquale v. Superior Court case to learn more about the limits of a Parenting Coordinator’s authority in an Arizona child custody case.
You may also want to consider reading our other article about the Arizona Court of Appeals ruling in Contreras v. Bourke, which found the court violated a parent’s right to due process after conducting a hearing on an objection to a Parenting Coordinator’s report and recommendations to understand the additional limitations placed upon the court when conducting a hearing based upon a Parenting Coordinator’s report and recommendations.
Contact Our Scottsdale Arizona Child Custody Attorneys
Contact us today or call us at (480)305-8300 to schedule your consultation with one of our Scottsdale Arizona Child Custody Attorneys regarding child custody issues, the divorce process or any other Arizona family law matter.
Chris Hildebrand wrote this article about Parenting Coordinators in Arizona to ensure everyone has access to information about child custody laws in Arizona. Chris is a family law attorney at Hildebrand Law, PC. He has over 24 years of Arizona family law experience and has received multiple awards, including US News and World Report “Top Arizona Divorce Attorneys”, Phoenix Magazine “Top Divorce Law Firms”, and Arizona Foothills Magazine “Best of the Valley” award. He believes the policies and procedures he uses to get his clients through a child custody case should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and actually caring about what his clients are going through.