Arizona Supreme Court Considering Changes to ‘Parenting Coordinator’ Role

What is a ‘parenting coordinator’ and how will this individual be involved in my custody dispute?

Amid widespread complaints from Arizona parents, the state Supreme Court will review proposed changes to the ‘parenting coordinator’ role in contested custody cases. Under current laws, a judge overseeing a custody case can mandate the appointment of a parenting coordinator – thereby requiring parents to submit to the inclusion of this often-resisted third-party in a confidential custody dispute. 

According to several court websites, the role of a parenting coordinator – who can be a mental health professional or family law attorney – is to help the family mediate and work through co-parenting issues as they navigate the unfamiliar territory of parenting post-divorce or post-break-up. These coordinators are to regularly interview the child, parents, and any other parties involved in the case – as well as review relevant records pertinent to the proceeding. 

However, as many parents have contended, parenting coordinators are in reality performing much the opposite role, and have a widespread reputation for “siding” with a particular parent during the conflict – further driving an alleged wedge between the parents and ultimately harming the child. As a result, several attorneys have petitioned the Arizona Supreme Court for a change to the rules, and to allow parties to include a parenting coordinator only upon the request and consent of both parents. 

On the flip side of the argument is the notion that parenting coordinators serve as an impartial party to the case – which can be especially helpful to judges trying to decipher between the allegations made by both parents in the dispute. As well, parenting coordinators can make recommendations to the court as to what may be in the best interests of the family as a whole, as well as alert the court should an emergency situation arise. 

Regardless of the outcome, opponents argue that – at the very least – the court should consider implementing greater oversight of parenting coordinators, as well as allow parents to choose their own coordinator rather than have one appointed. 

For more information about the role of child custody attorneys in a dispute, or to speak to a knowledgeable family law attorney in the Phoenix, Arizona area, please contact Cohen Family Law today: (602)714-8898.