Contested custody cases can be extremely adversarial and expensive. Bad feelings become inflamed into creating greater hostility between the parents, even after the court has decided on the specific custodial arrangements, both legal and physical, and the court order is about to be entered.
Many divorcing parents have difficulty communicating and it can be common for there to be some level of anger or distrust present between the parents. However, a high conflict custody case is a case where the parties demonstrate an ongoing pattern of all or any one of the following:
- Excessive Litigation.
- Anger and Distrust.
- Verbal Abuse.
- Physical Aggression or threats of Physical Aggression.
- Difficulty Communicating about and Cooperating in the Care of the Minor Children; or,
- Other Conditions that in the Discretion of the Court warrant the Appointment of a Parenting Coordinator.
What tends to differentiate high conflict custody cases from other custody cases is the sustained and repeated occurrences of the type of problems referenced above. When a parent finds himself or herself in a high conflict case, it may be appropriate for their parent to discuss with their lawyers steps to take to seek the appointment of a Parenting Coordinator.
Upon appointment of a Parenting Coordinator, the judge enters an order outlining the authority of the Parenting Coordinator for making decisions. The order usually lists in detail the issues for which a Parenting Coordinator can make decisions. For example, such decision-making authority could include, but it not limited to, the following:
- Transition time, pickup, or delivery.
- Sharing of vacations and holidays.
- Method of pickup and delivery.
- Transportation to and from visitation.
- Participation in child or day care and babysitting.
- Before- and after-school activities.
- Extracurricular activities.
- Health care management.
- Alterations in schedule that do not substantially interfere with the basic time-share agreement.
- Participation in visitation, including significant others or relatives.
- Telephone contact.
- Alterations to appearance, including tattoos or piercings.
- The child's passport.
- Other areas of specific authority as designated by the court or the parties
Any decision made by the Parenting Coordinator is binding and enforceable, unless one of the parents requests the court to review the decision — either because the decision is not in the child’s best interest or the decision exceeds the Parenting Coordinator’s authority, as spelled out in the court order appointing the Parenting Coordinator. The Parenting Coordinator never has the authority to make the ultimate decision on which parent(s) has or have legal and/or physical custody and the Parenting Coordinator cannot decide financial issues.