January 23, 2018
A Parenting Coordinator is a neutral third party who helps separated or divorced parents caught in high conflict resolve child-related disputes, privately and out of court. Parents deciding to work with Parenting Coordinators in Massachusetts are becoming more and more prevalent in 2018.
This article aims to educate parents and counsel on how to engage the services of a Parenting Coordinator (PC) when:
(a) In any action in which the custody and/or parenting time of a child or children of the parties is or was at issue, the parties, by agreement, may engage a parenting coordinator to assist them in dealing with existing or future conflicts regarding their access to and responsibilities for their child or children.
(b) For the agreement to be enforceable by the court, the parties shall file a “Joint Petition/Motion to Change a Judgment/Temporary Order (CJD 124)” (Form CJD 124) with the court to request that their agreement be incorporated into an order or incorporated and merged into a judgment. The court shall enter such an order or judgment if it finds that the parenting coordinator has the qualifications set forth in section 3 of this standing order, or is otherwise qualified to be the parenting coordinator, and that the agreement:
(i) is in writing and signed by the parties and the parenting coordinator; and
(ii) indicates whether the parenting coordinator is on the Category V list, and if not on the Category V list, how he or she is qualified to be the parenting coordinator; and
(iii) states the duties of the parenting coordinator, including whether the parties agree that the parenting coordinator shall have binding decision-making authority, and if so, the scope of said authority; and
(iv) states the period of time that the parenting coordinator will serve in the role; and
(v) states the amount or rate of compensation to be paid to the parenting coordinator, how the fees and expenses of the parenting coordinator are allocated between the parties, and the maximum expenditure for each party during the period of appointment as provided in subsection 5 (b)(iv) of this standing order; and
(vi) is otherwise consistent with the best interests of the child or children.
(c) Before incorporating the agreement into an order or incorporating and merging the agreement into a judgment, the judge shall inquire of the parties as to whether they understand that:
(i) if incorporated into an order, the agreement cannot be changed by the court without the filing of a motion and a showing of good cause and a showing that such change is in the best interests of the child or children; or
(ii) if incorporated into a judgment, cannot be modified by the court without the filing of complaint for modification and a showing of a material change in circumstances and a showing that such modification is in the best interests of the child or children; and
(iii) the parties have the right to access the court so that the court can determine fundamental issues of care and custody and/or parenting time and support, even where the parties have agreed to binding decision-making authority of the parenting coordinator; and
(iv) the court will not draw any adverse inference if the party does not agree to use a parenting coordinator.
To begin the process of working with a Parenting Coordinator in Massachusetts, contact Josh Hoch at 617-895-4028.
Question: Can the Court appoint a parenting coordinator in Massachusetts without agreement of the parties? Answer: Yes.
Also from Standing Order 1-17:
(a) In any action in which the custody and/or parenting time of a child or children of the parties is or was at issue and the court determines that the level of conflict between the parties with respect to that issue so warrants, the court may appoint a parenting coordinator in accordance with this section if the court finds that:
(i) it is in the best interests of the child or children involved in the parenting plan; and
(ii) the parties have failed to successfully implement the parenting plan; or
(iii) the level of parental conflict is, or may become, detrimental to the child or children involved in the parenting plan.
(b) During the pendency of an action, by motion of a party or on the court’s own initiative, and after notice and hearing, the court may appoint a parenting coordinator for the pendency of that action. Unless sooner terminated in accordance with this standing order, the appointment shall terminate upon the entry of a judgment in that action.
(c) Upon entry of a judgment establishing or modifying a parenting plan, custody and/or parenting time, the court, after notice and hearing, may appoint a parenting coordinator. The court may appoint the individual who served as a parenting coordinator during the pendency of the underlying action. Unless sooner terminated in accordance with this standing order, the appointment of a post-judgment parenting coordinator shall not exceed two years.
(d) An order or judgment appointing a parenting coordinator without the agreement of the parties shall include:
(i) written findings as to why a parenting coordinator is being appointed pursuant to subsection 6 (a) of this standing order;
(ii) the name, business address, e-mail address, and telephone number of the parenting coordinator; and
(iii) the duties of the parenting coordinator; and
(iv) the period of time that the parenting coordinator will serve in the role; and
(v) written findings regarding parenting coordination fees pursuant to subsection 15 (b) of this standing order and how the fees and expenses of the parenting coordinator are allocated between the parties.
(e) Notwithstanding any other provisions of this standing order, “a judge may not require the parties to use the services of a parent[ing] coordinator if the order would require one or both parents to pay for the services without his or her consent.” Bower v. Bournay-Bower, 469 Mass. 690 (2014). If neither party agrees to pay to use the services of a parenting coordinator, the court is not permitted to enter an order or judgment requiring the use of a parenting coordinator.