The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines (“IPTG”) were modified in 2017 to include language regarding the use of a Parenting Coordinator, commonly called a “PC.” When is a PC appropriate? The IPTG provide that, “Parenting coordination is a court ordered, child-focused dispute resolution process in which a Parenting Coordinator is appointed to assist high conflict parties by accessing and managing conflicts, redirecting the focus of the parties to the needs of the child, and educating the parties on how to make decisions that are in the best interest of the child.” The PC is appointed after a custody and parenting time order is made, as his or her role includes, “assessing the family and the litigation history; educating the parties as to the impact their behavior has on the child; facilitating conflict management; and assisting the parties in the development of parenting plans and alternative resolutions to other disputes.”
What are examples of the proper use of a PC?
- To help the parties interpret their specific parenting time order in conjunction with the IPTG, to create a parenting time calendar.
- To help create a medical treatment plan for a child with a chronic illness, to ensure that medical decisions are made in a timely manner and the child’s physician’s recommendations are followed in both homes.
- To help the parties determine how extracurricular activities are determined and how the costs should be divided, paid and reimbursed.
- To help the parties determine a minimum amount of time required that would trigger the Opportunity for Additional Parenting Time.
- To help set expectations for step-parents roles in a child’s life to ensure that they do not attempt to replace a parent.
What is an improper use of a PC?
- To allocate financial responsibility for private school. A PC is not to determine “significant financial issues” between the parties, but may assist with developing a mechanism and timelines for payment and reimbursement of an already existing order.
- To shift custody from one parent to another. A PC does not pick up where the custody evaluator left off to continue an investigation or speak to additional parties on behalf of a parent. While a PC always has the authority to speak with a child, it is not to make a recommendation that custody should change or that the percentage of parenting time should be modified.
- To be a counselor to one or both parents. While a PC can be a mental health professional who is a Registered Domestic Mediator in the state of Indiana, the PC is not serving as a counselor to either party. This means that the communications between the PC and each party are not confidential and may be shared with the other party and the court, if necessary.
- To be an attorney for either party. The PC should review the IPTG and his/her specific Order Appointing PC to understand the exact boundaries of the appointment. When either parent begins indicating requests for modification of an order beyond the scope of the PC Order, the PC must refer the party to his/her attorney.
If you and your co-parent have a custody and parenting time order but are continually at odds and no decision is without conflict, consider a PC to help create faster resolution so that you can return to co-parenting. The PC is best equipped to help with a clear Order Appointing PC so that the roles and obligations of the PC and the parties is clear. Contact Wanzer Edwards if you think you need a PC.