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Parenting Coordinators in Kentucky's Family Courts

Adapted from an 2002 article by Hon. Juda Maria Hellman Judge, Jefferson Family Court

Unfortunately, Family Law attorneys see far too many families in high conflict. One or both of the parties are often seeking modification of custody, visitation, child support, school placement, daycare placement, etc. These situations arise both during the divorce action and post-divorce.

One parent may advocate for parenting leverage for selfish reasons or as a means to seek revenge against the other parent. Left in the middle, often without their best interests being considered, are the children.

High-conflict families such as these usually spend a tremendous amount of time returning to court due to the parties' inability to agree on basic parenting issues, boundaries and guidelines.

Courts across the land have begun to adopt a vast array of intervention options for high-conflict families, including:

  • Mediation
  • Arbitration
  • Custody Evaluations
  • Psychological Evaluations
  • Counseling

In the Jefferson Family Court, a pilot project known as the Parenting Coordinator Program is an entirely new option available to help resolve emotionally-charged parenting disputes.

In this model program, a Parenting Coordinator is assigned by the Court to assist chronic high-conflict families to learn to make decisions which are in the best interest of the children together rather than working against each other.

The Jefferson Family Court has initiated this pilot project with the assistance and enthusiasm of a Development Committee comprised of attorneys, psychologists, social workers and Guardians Ad Litem.

The Development Committee has proposed the following mission statement for the Parenting Coordinator Program:

"To facilitate parents in making and implementing joint decisions in the best interest of their children and, when necessary, to make decisions (with the exception of custody) on behalf of families."

Parenting Coordinators are professionals with child development knowledge and mediation skills. They meet with families and attempt to assist the parents in making decisions (other than custody decisions) of benefit to the child (i.e., they have no authority to change custody). Approximately ten coordinators are currently participating in the project. The issues which Parenting Coordinators address are often parenting issues rather than purely legal issues. For instance, time and place for visitation exchange, changing daycare or schools, holidays and fee-splitting for the children's activities.

The parties may make a contract (which becomes an Agreed Order) with the Parenting Coordinator to the effect that the Coordinator decides what is best for the children. If the parties do not contract with the Parenting Coordinator, then the Coordinator makes recommendations to the Judge regarding the child's best interest, much like a Guardian Ad Litem.

Unlike mediation, work with a Parenting Coordinator is not confidential in that the Coordinator may report back to the Court regarding the efforts of the parties in current or future conflict. This reporting is done with full knowledge of the parties.

The use of Parenting Coordinators is another extra-judicial tool available for the Family Courts to assist families in resolving their disputes without litigation.

Parents share the cost of the Coordinator's fees, and a retainer fee may be required.

The Family Court Development Committee, which oversees this pilot program, continues to review procedural and substantive criteria. The Committee solicits input from the Bar, the bench, mediators, therapists and other professionals. The ongoing experience of the nine Family Courts will be considered in any necessary protocol changes.

The law offices of William L. Hoge, III are firmly committed to employing any strategy which will assist high-conflict families in resolving child custody, visitation and parenting disputes. We have already enjoyed significant success in working with Family Court Parenting Coordinators.

 


Return to our main Custody & Visitation page to learn more about child custody, visitation and parenting schedules