C. Parenting Coordinator (N.C. Gen. Stat. §50-90 et seq.)
C.1 Parent coordination is a non-adversarial dispute resolution process that is court ordered or agreed on by parties who have an ongoing pattern of high conflict and/or litigation about their children. The underlying principle of parent coordination is a continuous focus on children’s best interests by the Parenting Coordinator in working with high-conflict parties in decision-making. Parenting coordination is designed to help parties implement and comply with court orders or parenting plans, to make timely decisions in a manner consistent with children’s developmental and psychological needs, to reduce the amount of damage conflict between caretaking adults to which children are exposed, and to diminish the pattern of unnecessary re-litigation about child-related issues.
C.2 Definition of a Parenting Coordinator
The role of a Parenting Coordinator is to:
a. assist parents in implementing a Custody/Visitation Order on an ongoing basis;
b. reduce conflict between parents;
c. facilitate both parents’ relationships with the child(ren);
d. provide attorneys and any party with written summaries of developments in the case;
e. act to resolve any minor issues that may or may not be specifically governed by the court order over which the parents reach an impasse, until further orders are entered;
f. empower the parents to successfully resolve conflicts regarding their child(ren) on their own;
g. address any other issues set forth in the order of appointment; and
h. NOT to deal directly with financial issues and will refer financial issues to the attorneys unless the parties and the Parenting Coordinator agree to have the Parenting Coordinator serve as a mediator for the issue.
C.3 Parenting Coordinators shall be chosen from a list maintained by the District Court. To be included on the list, a Parenting Coordinator must provide documentation of the following:
a. Education: Masters or Ph.D. degree in psychology, law, social work, counseling, medicine or related degrees and relevant training or experience.
b. Training and experience:
- no less than five years of related post degree experience;
- have participated in Judicial District 15B’s Civil District Parenting Coordinator training, or other comparable training program, which consists of at least 24 hours of training in topics of developmental stages of children, dynamics of high conflict families, stages and effects of divorce, problem solving techniques and legal issues. To demonstrate a “comparable training program,” the candidate shall provide training materials, training agenda, and certificate of completion to the Center for Cooperative Parenting for review and to be forwarded to the Chief District Court Judge for consideration;
- participate in an ongoing seminar which will provide continuing education, group discussion, and peer review and support on a no less than quarterly basis. Best practice is to attend peer review on a monthly basis when a Parenting Coordinator has an active case. It is the obligation of the Parenting Coordinator to maintain records of his or her attendance at peer review and to provide the same to the Center for Cooperative Parenting; and
- no individual who within the previous 3 years has been a participant in custody litigation may seek approval as a Parenting Coordinator.
c. One must provide:
- a current resume or curriculum vitae;
- proof of licensure/certification; and
- certificate of completion of Parenting Coordinator training.
d. When a Parenting Coordinator has been assigned to an active case, he or she must submit notice of such appointment to the Center for Cooperative Parenting.
e. Information regarding the Center for Cooperative Parenting may be located at www.centerforcooperativeparenting.org.
Non-compliance with any of the requirements of this section will result in removal from the District 15B Parenting Coordinator list.
f. To be reinstated after removal:
- If the removal was for failure to participate in peer supervision, the applicant will be suspended from the appointment list for a period of one year, during which he or she must attend at least 4 peer supervision meetings, before applying for reinstatement.
- If the removal was for any other reason, application for reinstatement must be made to the Chief District Court Judge along with documentation of efforts to address the reason for removal.
C.4 Upon motion of either party or the Court’s own motion, a Parenting Coordinator may be appointed in high conflict cases or by consent of the parties:
a. upon the entry of a custody order or parent agreement; or
b. after multiple motions have been filed regarding the child(ren) after a custody order has previously been entered.
C.5 Appointment Process for a Parenting Coordinator (See N.C. Gen. Stat. §50-91(b))
a. Upon the entry of a custody order or parenting agreement, the Court may appoint a Parenting Coordinator if the Court finds that:
- the parties’ conflict represents a “high conflict” case in which the child(ren)’s welfare is at risk as a result of the parties’ conflict, and
- that it is in the best interest of the child(ren) to appoint a Parenting Coordinator; and
- the parties have the ability to pay.
b. Every effort should be made to enter such order upon consent of the parties.
c. If a Parenting Coordinator is appointed, the Court shall schedule an appointment conference, at which the parties, their attorneys, and the proposed Parenting Coordinator shall be present. The Parenting Coordinator shall provide to the parties all necessary releases, contracts for services, and consents that are to be signed by the parties.
d. The appointment conference shall be scheduled no later than the next monthly calendar call. It can be heard on the day of the calendar call with the permission of the Chief District Court Judge or at such other time as the participants may agree. Notice of the appointment conference shall be in accordance with N.C. R. Civ. P., G.S. § 1A-1, Rule 6.
e. The Court shall make the appointment of a Parenting Coordinator contingent upon the parties’ payment for services provided by the Parenting Coordinator, which may be allocated between the parties in proportion to the parties’ respective incomes, shared equally, or any other proportion the Court determines to be fair and equitable. Parenting Coordinators shall not begin their duties or be required to continue their service unless, or until, the fee has been paid pursuant to the appointment order.
f. If the parties have agreed upon a custody evaluation or Guardian ad Litem or one has been ordered, any appointment of the Parenting Coordinator may be pursuant to specific identified responsibilities, if appropriate, in order to prevent overlap or duplication of services.
C.6 At the Appointment Conference the Court shall:
a. explain the Parenting Coordinator’s role, authority, and responsibility;
b. determine who will provide what information to the Parenting Coordinator;
c. provide for financial arrangements, establish the proportionate share of the Parenting Coordinator’s fee to be paid by each party and authorize the Parenting Coordinator to charge any party separately for individual contacts made necessary by that party’s behavior;
d. inform the participants of the rules regarding communication among themselves and with the Court;
e. enter an Appointment Order and;
f. inform the parties that the Court may hold any party in contempt pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 5A-21 for non-compliance with the Order appointing the Parenting Coordinator.
C.7 Fees: The Parenting Coordinator shall be entitled to reasonable compensation for services rendered and to a reasonable prepayment. Either party or the Parenting Coordinator may request a hearing in the event of a fee dispute.
C.8 Decisions and Duties of the Parenting Coordinator:
a. Should the Parenting Coordinator act to resolve any disagreement between the parents, the Parenting Coordinator’s decision shall prevail until the matter is reviewed by the Court upon motion or request. The Parenting Coordinator, any party or the attorney for any party may file a motion and schedule a hearing on an expedited basis. The motion for review must put the parties on notice of the specific decisions(s) for which review is sought, and the motion must be served on all attorneys and/or parties, as well as the Parenting Coordinator.
b. A Parenting Coordinator shall be subpoenaed to appear and shall testify only if ordered by the Judge presiding over the case. The parties shall bear the cost of preparation, appearance and testimony of the Parenting Coordinator in Court in accordance with the division of fees that is set out in the original order appointing the Parenting Coordinator unless the Court orders otherwise.
c. The Parenting Coordinator shall promptly provide written notification to the Court, parties, and attorneys for the parties and child(ren) and the child(ren)’s GAL, if any, in the event (s)he determines that the existing custody order is not in the best interests of the child(ren) or that the Parenting Coordinator is not qualified to address certain issues raised in the matter. Upon receipt of such notice, the Court will schedule the matter no later than 2 weeks following the receipt of the report.
d. The Parenting Coordinator has a duty to report abuse and neglect and/or serious safety issues to the County Department of Social Services.
C.9 If the parents agree to any fundamental change in any child custody order, the Parenting Coordinator shall send the agreement to the parties’ attorneys for preparation of a Consent Order.
C.10 Communication and Records:
a. Ex Parte Communications:
- Communications between the parties and the Parenting Coordinators may be informal and ex parte. Said communications are NOT confidential, but may be maintained privately by the Parenting Coordinator and shared in the discretion of the Parenting Coordinator, absent subpoena by the Court.
- Communications between the attorneys and Parenting Coordinators may be ex parte.
- There shall be no ex parte communication between the Parenting Coordinator and the Court.
b. The Parenting Coordinator shall maintain records of each meeting, a written summary of the developments in the case and copies of any other written communications. These records may only be subpoenaed by order of the judge presiding over the case. The Court must review the records in camera and may release the records to the parties and their attorneys only if the court determines release of the information contained in the records will assist the parties with the presentation of their case at trial.
Any grievances against a Parenting Coordinator shall be submitted to the Chief District Court Judge for consideration. The Chief District Court Judge, in his or her discretion, may consult with the Center for Cooperative Parenting regarding any grievances.
C.12 Modification or Termination of Services:
The Court may terminate or modify the Parenting Coordinator appointment for good cause upon motion of either party,
a. at the request of the Parenting Coordinator,
b. upon the agreement of the parties and the Parenting Coordinator, or
c. upon the Court on its own motion.