SB 865 - In any case involving parental responsibilities in actions for dissolution, legal separation, paternity or guardianship, the court may, upon agreement by the parties, appoint a parenting coordinator as a neutral third party in high-conflict cases 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 to determine fundamental issues of custody, visitation and support and to exercise management and control of the case. The parenting coordinator shall be either a licensed attorney or a mental health professional. The parenting coordinator shall also be qualified under Missouri Supreme Court rules governing mediation.
Prior to appointing a coordinator, the court shall consider the effect of any evidence of domestic violence on the parties' ability to engage in parent coordination services. If there is a judgment or order regarding the confidentiality of address or telephone information of a party, the coordinator shall maintain such confidentiality.
The parenting coordinator shall assist the parties in implementing the terms of a court-ordered parenting plan. Upon appointment, the parenting coordinator shall attempt to resolve disputes between the parties regarding the parenting plan or other disputes regarding parental responsibilities and assist the parties in developing parenting strategies to minimize conflict.
The parenting coordinator may authorize temporary departures from a parenting plan in a manner that is consistent with the substantive intent of the court order containing the plan, and that is within the scope of matters on which the parenting coordinator is authorized to determine. The parenting coordinator's authority is subject to a party's right to file an objection as specified under the act.
A written report of the decisions made by the coordinator shall be provided to the parties or their counsel within 20 days of the decision. Any party may file a motion objecting to any report or decision of the coordinator, within fifteen days of the receipt of the information and serve all the parties with such objection. The court shall review the objections and any responses and set the matter for a hearing de novo or enter other appropriate orders within 10 days of an objection being made.
The order appointing a parenting coordinator shall be for a specified term, but not to exceed two years. 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.
Nothing in the act shall be construed as requiring a circuit court to appoint a parenting coordinator. 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. Also, 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.
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 act is subtantially similar to HB 1820 (2010) and similar to SB 62 (2009) and SB 1249(2008).