By Laurie M. Wasserman, Esq.
Maryland Rule 9-205.2 provides the requirements for the appointment of Parent Coordinators. While the Rule has existed since 2011, Parent Coordinators remain underutilized as dispute resolution alternatives. Here are ten reasons to use Parent Coordinator for custody disputes.
- Parent Coordination addresses day-to-day issues. Parent Coordination provides a time and place for parents to meet and resolve day-to-day disputes. The overarching goal is to reduce the effects of conflict on a child or children.
- Parent Coordination is designed to assist high-conflict families with making minor decisions. The Parent Coordination process is designed to resolve minor disputes between the parents. For example, the Parent Coordinator can assist with selection of sports or camps, making temporary changes to a schedule, or establishing rules for communication. Note: A Parent Coordinator is not permitted to decide a legal or physical custody issue, as it would be an improper delegation of judicial authority.
- Parent Coordination saves money. The cost of one Parent Coordinator — shared by two parents — for a Parent Coordination meeting is significantly less than the fees each parent will pay to his or her lawyer to resolve a dispute.
- Parent Coordination saves time. Parent Coordination provides a prompt resolution to daily child-related decisions. The parents do not need to wait for the lawyers to call each other and attempt to work out the issue.
- Parent Coordination encourages joint decisions. The Parent Coordinator is trained to first work with parents to try to reach a shared decision on the disputed issue, using mediation style techniques. If, after a good-faith effort, the parents still cannot resolve their dispute, then the Parent Coordinator decides the issue.
- Parent Coordination is child focused. Parent Coordinators assist parents with establishing and maintaining a healthy co-parenting relationship. The Parent Coordination process tends to reduce child conflicts, which, in turn, reduces the potential effects of conflict on a child.
- Parent Coordination is not confidential. Unlike mediators, Parent Coordinators can be called to testify as a fact witnesses at trial about what took place in session and how these parents make decisions. The lack of confidentiality tends to incentivize good-faith behavior from participants.
- Parent Coordination results in written decisions. Since the Parent Coordination process is not confidential, the Parent Coordinator will issue a summary of the discussions at Parent Coordination meetings, and those notes are admissible as evidence in Court. The agreements can then be used by the lawyers as the template for a Consent Agreement.
- Parent Coordination is a long-term resource. After the custody dispute is resolved, the Parent Coordinator can continue to work with the parents as long as they consent.
- Parent Coordination benefits the legal profession. Parent Coordination will decrease the number of client calls to their lawyers, improve cooperation with Court orders, and reduce the number of litigated cases.
Another Useful MSBA Resource: Top Five Things to Know About Parenting Coordination
Laurie Wasserman is a family law attorney and certified parent coordinator, and the owner of the Law Office of Laurie M. Wasserman LLC in Towson, Md. She is a Fellow in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, one of the highest distinctions in the practice of family law.