In a perfect world, both parents in a custody action would treat each other with respect and dignity and work together in order to make decisions that are in the best interest of their children. In reality, that is often not the case. Custody actions are fraught with emotion, and parents often experience a range of feelings, including anger and distrust their former partners. These feelings do not always end with the entry of a custody order. In the best cases, the parents work through their feelings to successfully co-parent their children. In the average case, the ex-spouses may parent on parallel lines, never really interacting but successfully parenting their children without the air of conflict. In the worst cases, parents are completely unable to communicate, leaving the court system to make decisions about the children’s welfare.
In 2005, the North Carolina Legislature recognized that these high conflict cases needed an intermediary to help the ex-spouses parent their children. As a result, the Legislature enacted the Parenting Coordinator provisions of the general statutes.
The parent coordination process has been described as a child-focused alternative dispute resolution process in which an individual with mediation training assists parents to help better their children.
A Parenting Coordinator is an impartial third party, appointed by the court in a high conflict custody action, who is given the authority to aid the parties to (1) identify disputed issues; (2) reduce misunderstandings; (3) clarify priorities; (4) explore possibilities for compromise; (5) develop methods of collaboration in parenting; and (6) comply with the court’s custody order.
In essence, a Parenting Coordinator assists the parents in reducing harmful conflict and in promoting the best interests of the children.
A Parenting Coordinator can be appointed for a limited issue, such as to decide whether the children should attend an afterschool care program or for a broader purpose, such as to help negotiate temporary changes in the custody schedule.
Parents who recognize the need for a Parenting Coordinator, but who are not deemed high conflict by the Court, may consent to the appointment of a Parenting Coordinator.
The services of the Parenting Coordinator are paid for by the parties, as prescribed by the court order.
Lisa LeFante of our office is a certified Parenting Coordinator in Wake and Durham Counties.