Effective March 1, 2019 Parent Coordinators Reinstated in Pennsylvania

January 11, 2019 | By Samantha J. Evian

Parent Coordinators will be reinstated in Pennsylvania and can be used as successful tools to serve and help families throughout Pennsylvania.

There can be ongoing conflicts between parents even after an initial custody order is entered in custody matters.   Some parents frequently find themselves returning to court with regard to issues with custody. It is envisioned that Parent Coordinators can be introduced into these cases to help facilitate agreements between the parties and make recommendations to the court if agreements cannot be reached.

Although parent coordination had been abolished in Pennsylvania, the process has been updated and re-introduced by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Effective March 1, 2019, Parent Coordinators will be re-introduced into the custody court system. The legislation specifically sets out who is qualified and who can be appointed as a Parent Coordinator. Parent Coordinators can be appointed for no more than 12 months, though it can be extended. The coordinator can withdraw by petitioning the court but neither party can terminate the Parent Coordinator’s services without court approval.

A Parent Coordinator can help resolve issues in custody cases. They help with places and conditions for exchanges, temporary variations to schedules, school issues (not school selection), children’s recreational, extracurricular activities and travel, childcare arrangements, personal possessions clothes etc. of the children, exchanging of information and communications about the children between the parties, coordinating services such as psychological testing, alcohol or drug monitoring, psychotherapy, anger management, behavioral management of children, and other related issues that the parties mutually agree can be submitted to the Parent Coordinator.

A Parent Coordinator cannot change legal custody, change primary custody, reduce or expand time with specific parents, change residence of the children, determine financial issues or fees, or get involved in major decisions affecting the health, education or religion of the children.

The role of the Parent Coordinator is to attempt to resolve issues arising out of a custody order by facilitating an agreement between the parties. If the parties cannot reach an agreement through the facilitation of the Parent Coordinator, the Parent Coordinator can recommend a resolution to the court. However, the Parent Coordinator cannot change the custody order they are only permitted and encouraged to facilitate communication and agreement between the parties.   If the parties are not persuaded/encouraged by the Parent Coordinator then the Parent Coordinator can make a recommendation to the court.

The new rule also imposes communication restrictions within the process.  Communications between the parties or counsel and the coordinator are not confidential and can later be subject to examination if the matter goes to court.

If there is an issue that arises that a Parent Coordinator cannot resolve and a party petitions the court, the Parent Coordinator can submit a written summary and recommendation to the court within two days of the hearing. This report is to be provided to the parties in advance and if either party objects to the recommendation the court can do one of the following: approve the recommendation and make it an order of the court, remand the recommendation back to the coordinator or schedule a hearing.  It should be noted, that even if an objection is made to the recommendation by either party the recommendation will become an interim order pending the hearing.

The role of the Parent Coordinator and the new process that will be implemented will serve to improve highly contested issues between parents as well as streamline the court process for these highly conflictual cases. The Parent Coordinator will provide cost efficient and additional resources to allow litigants to effectively and simply resolve issues in an attempt to keep matters out of the court system and help courts resolve issues that may arise between Parents.  If you feel that this may be useful tool in your custody case, Samantha Evian is a highly qualified family law attorney who can help guide you through this process or answer any other questions you have on this issue.

The information contained in this publication should not be construed as legal advice, is not a substitute for legal counsel, and should not be relied on as such. For legal advice or answers to specific questions, please contact one of our attorneys.