SB 1249 - This act provides that in any case involving child custody or support, the court may appoint a parenting coordinator as a neutral third party to assist the parents in resolving disputes concerning parental responsibilities and the implementation of a court-ordered parenting plan.
The court order appointing such parenting coordinator shall specify the matters which the coordinator has authority to determine, however, appointment of a coordinator shall not divest the court of its exclusive jurisdiction and control of the case. The parenting coordinator shall possess the same qualifications as a mediator under Supreme Court Rule 88.05.
A parenting coordinator may be appointed despite party objection if the court makes findings that the case is high-conflict, and that appointment of a coordinator is in the best interest of the child or children. The court shall consider the effect of any evidence of domestic violence on the parties' ability to engage in parent coordination services.
The parenting coordinator shall assist the parties in implementing the terms of a court-ordered parenting plan, which shall include but are not limited to assisting in the creation of guidelines for the plan, facilitation of appropriate communication between the parties, providing referrals to resources to develop parenting skills, and assisting the parties in developing strategies to identify the sources and causes of conflict and to reduce such conflict.
Upon appointment, the parenting coordinator shall attempt to resolve disputes between the parties regarding the parenting plan, or other disputes regarding parental responsibilities. The parenting coordinator also shall have authority to make findings and recommendations to the court regarding modification or clarification of an existing court-ordered parenting plan. The parenting coordinator shall submit any findings and recommendations to the parties, along with a statement that such information shall be submitted to the court. Any party who disagrees with the findings or recommendations may file a motion, within fifteen days of the receipt of the information, to request a court hearing.
After receipt and review of the parenting coordinator's report, the judge shall choose to adopt, modify, or reject the findings and recommendations. If the judge adopts the findings and recommendations, the judge shall enter the information in a judgment of the court. The parenting coordinator may authorize minor temporary changes from a parenting plan, in a manner that is consistent with the substantive intent of the court order, and that is within the scope of matters on which the parenting coordinator is authorized to determine.
The order appointing a parenting coordinator shall be for a specified term. Upon agreement of the parties, the court may extend, modify, or terminate the appointment, or may choose to terminate the appointment at any time for good cause. The parenting coordinator may withdraw from the case at any time.
No parenting coordinator shall be appointed unless the court finds that the parties are able to pay the fees, and the court shall allocate fees between such parties after consideration of all relevant factors. In cases of hardship, the court may appoint a coordinator to serve on a volunteer basis.
The parenting coordinator shall not be competent to testify about the parenting coordination process in any proceeding between the parties to the action, and shall not be required to produce records as to any statement or decision made during the appointment, other than the findings and recommendations the coordinator submits to the court. This shall not be construed to prevent a coordinator from testifying or producing records to the extent necessary in an action to collect fees from a party.
The coordinator shall be immune from liability for any act or omission occurring during the performance of his or her duties, except for willful and wanton acts or omissions. This shall not be construed to prevent an action by a party related to the reasonableness or accuracy of any fee charged by a parenting coordinator.
ADRIANE CROUSE & ALEXA PEARSON