What does a Parenting Coordinator Do? - Blog, Family Law Pennsylvania law insights
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What does a Parenting Coordinator Do?

husband signing a document in front of wife and parenting coordinator at a table

High Swartz Family Law Attorney Liz Early recently became a licensed parenting coordinator in Pennsylvania. Here she goes into detail about the ins and outs of the newly reinstated practice.


March 29, 2019 | by Elizabeth EarlyFamily Law attorney and parenting coordinator at High Swartz Law Firm in Norristown, PA


WHO are parenting coordinators?


Parenting coordination is a tool available to parties in contentious custody cases that aims to help the parties resolve minor disputes in custody without repeated visits to the Court. From 2009 through 2013, parenting coordination was used with mixed popularity and mixed results throughout Pennsylvania to resolve day-to-day custody issues. A 2013 Rule of Civil Procedure, handed down by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, extinguished parenting coordination as an improper delegation of judicial duties – in other words, our Supreme Court felt that parenting coordinators were inappropriately replacing custody judges in making custody decisions that should be handled exclusively by the courts.

After about 6 years of negotiations between a variety of professionals (including our judiciary, family law attorneys and mental health professionals), parenting coordination will return to Pennsylvania effective March 1, 2019.


What are Parenting Coordinators?


Parenting coordinators are highly trained family-law attorneys or mental health professionals with a master’s degree or higher. A parenting coordinator must have achieved certain professional benchmarks and have completed an intensive training program.


WHAT is parenting coordination?


A parenting coordinator may be appointed by a judge in cases that involve “repeated or intractable conflict between the parties affecting implementation of the final custody order,” or, put simply, high conflict cases. The parenting coordinator will charge the parties an hourly rate (set by local rules and variable from county to county) to address minor custody issues and make recommendations to the parties. The issues that are subject to the purview of the parenting coordinators include:

  • places and conditions for custodial transitions between households;
  • temporary variation from the custodial schedule for a special event or particular circumstance;
  • school issues, apart from school selection;
  • the child(ren)’s participation in recreation, enrichment, and extracurricular activities, including travel;
  • child-care arrangements;
  • clothing, equipment, toys, and personal possessions of the child(ren);
  • information exchanges (e.g., school, health, social) between the parties and communication with or about the child(ren);
  • coordination of existing or court-ordered services for the child(ren) (e.g., psychological testing, alcohol or drug monitoring/testing, psychotherapy, anger management);
  • behavioral management of the child(ren); and
  • other related custody issues that the parties mutually have agreed in writing to submit to the parenting coordinator, which are not excluded in subdivision (d)(2).

Parenting coordinators can NOT make decisions on the following issues which are preserved as issues that must be submitted to the Court, if the parties reach an impasse:

  • a change in legal custody as set forth in the custody order;
  • a change in primary physical custody as set forth in the custody order;
  • except as set forth in subdivision (d)(1)(ii), a change in the court-ordered custody schedule that reduces or expands the child(ren)’s time with a party;
  • a change in the residence (relocation) of the child(ren);
  • determination of financial issues, other than allocation of the parenting coordinator’s fees as set forth in subdivision (g)(1);
  • major decisions affecting the health, education, or religion of the child(ren); and
  • other issues limited by the appointing judge.

The scope of the parenting coordinator’s authority is narrow and focused and intended to resolve “minor” day-to-day custody disputes while still deferring to the court for more substantial custody issues.


WHERE do I request a parenting coordinator?


A parenting coordinator can be appointed by the Court after the entry of a final Custody Order either by request of a party or parties or via motion of the Court. A parenting coordinator is not necessary in every case and is meant to be preserved for cases where the conflict level is unusually elevated.

The reality of many custody cases is that the parties are no longer an intact family unit because substantial differences have arise between the parents. Personality conflicts, different lifestyles, and different ideologies are compounded when combined with the animosity that often accompanies a couple’s decision to part ways. Decisions that may have been made with ease while the couple was together become major points of contention after a break up. A parenting coordinator can be the tie-breaker on these types of day-to-day disputes without requiring repeat visits to the already overburdened court system over what the court perceives to be minor issues. Parenting coordination can also give parties immediate access to a decision-maker for time-sensitive inquiries. In addition, although the parenting coordinator charges an hourly rate, many parties will find they save funds by sharing in the cost of one decision-maker versus two separate attorneys.


WHY would I consider parenting coordination?


The reality of many custody cases is that the parties are no longer an intact family unit because substantial differences have arise between the parents. Personality conflicts, different lifestyles, and different ideologies are compounded when combined with the animosity that often accompanies a couple’s decision to part ways. Decisions that may have been made with ease while the couple was together become major points of contention after a break up. A parenting coordinator can be the tie-breaker on these types of day-to-day disputes without requiring repeat visits to the already overburdened court system over what the court perceives to be minor issues. Parenting coordination can also give parties immediate access to a decision-maker for time-sensitive inquiries. In addition, although the parenting coordinator charges an hourly rate, many parties will find they save funds by sharing in the cost of one decision-maker versus two separate attorneys.

The information above is general: we recommend that you consult a High Swartz Attorney regarding your specific circumstances.  The content of this information is not meant to be considered as legal advice or a substitute for legal representation. 

About the Author: Elizabeth Early

Liz Early, High Swartz

Elizabeth Early concentrated her practice on family law and specializes in many areas including divorce, custody, support, equitable distribution, pre and post-nuptial agreements and abuse matters.

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