Parenting Coordination – What is it and how does it work?
September 6, 2018

Child Custody lawOn August 9, 2018, The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania entered an order which authorizes the use of a Parenting Coordinator in custody cases involving repeated or intractable conflict between parties. The Rule provides that a Parenting Coordinator may be used in those judicial districts that chose to implement a parenting coordination program. This rule replaces a previous rule that prohibited the use of parenting coordination programs and the new rule takes care to outline, very specifically, the qualifications of those serving as parent coordinators (hereinafter referred to as PC’s) and delineates the authority of the PC. Each County Court will decide if the Parenting Coordination Program will be utilized in the County. The counties using PC’s will have to develop a set of local rules to implement the requirements set forth by the Supreme Court in Pa RCP 1915.ll-1, and each County Court will have to maintain a list of qualified individuals to serve as PC’s. To afford time for the local rules to be compiled and approved and to allow time for lists of qualified individuals to be collected, the effective date of the Rule is delayed until March 1, 2019. With that procedural background, let’s look briefly at the definition of a PC and the PC’s role in custody matters as defined by this new Rule.

A PC is a neutral third party appointed by the court to assist parents in resolving day to day parenting decisions with the goal to minimizing conflict, expediting decisions and hopefully enabling decisions to be reached without resorting to expensive litigation. A PC (at least under the Pennsylvania Rule) must be an individual “licensed to practice in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as either an attorney or a mental health professional.” (PA R.C.P. 1915.11-1 (b)). The Rule outlines requirements for specialized training in the parenting coordination process, mediation and domestic violence training.
A PC can be appointed only after a final custody order has been entered by a judge and is not to be used in every case. Instead, the PC should be appointed only in those cases that prove to have an intractable conflict between the parties which affect the implementation of the final custody order. PA R C P 1915.11-1(a)(2) explicitly rules out the appointment of a PC in cases where a protection from abuse order is in effect.
PA R.C.P. 1915.11-1 (d) provides the scope of authority of the PC, listing specifically what the PC may do and what the PC is prohibited from doing. The PC is authorized, to, among other things, make recommended resolutions to the court about the following issues:

  • Places and conditions for custodial transitions
  • Temporary variation from the custodial schedule for a particular circumstance
  • The child’s participation in extracurricular activities
  • Childcare arrangements
  • School issues, apart from school selection

The PC is precluded from making recommendations on the following:

  • A change in legal custody
  • A change in primary custody
  • A change in residence
  • Financial issues
  • Major decisions affecting health, education or religion of the children
  • Other matters indicated explicitly by the judge
  • The above lists are not all inclusive but indicate the extent and limitation of the PC’s powers.

Parents who contemplate utilizing a PC should keep in mind that the PC does not (or should not) function as the attorney, advocate, counselor, or psychotherapist for the parties, their children or for the family as a whole. The PC is, however, encouraged and permitted to facilitate communication and to promote agreement among the parties. As in all custody matters, the PC is directed to act in a manner that will advance the best interests of the children.

Contact Us