Parent Coordinators were initially part of a pilot program in certain New Jersey counties (Bergen, Middlesex, Morris, Sussex and Union) from 2007 to 2012 in order to assist parents in “high conflict” child custody cases to resolve day-to-day parenting issues. While the pilot program ended in November of 2012, judges across the State of New Jersey still have the discretion to use the program if they determine it is necessary. Parent Coordinators in NJ can be used in many child custody cases, but they cannot be used when there is a domestic violence restraining order in place.Definition and Purpose of a Parent Coordinator in NJ
A Parent Coordinator is a neutral third party who is either appointed by the court or agreed to by the parties. A Parent Coordinator may be a social worker, family therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, marriage counselor, or even a qualified attorney if appropriate for the situation. The coordinator should be experienced in dealing with children and also conflict resolution in order to be effective. The stated purpose of the parenting coordinator program is “to aid parties in monitoring the existing parenting plan, reducing misunderstandings, clarifying priorities, exploring possibilities for compromise and developing methods of communication that promote collaboration in parenting.”
While in the Parent Coordinator program, when parents cannot agree on how to resolve a conflict, the Parent Coordinator will assist them in resolving the issue at hand by providing a neutral, third party perspective on the situation. The Coordinator will also help the parents to determine how to better handle such conflicts in the future.Best Interest of the Child – Situations That Benefit from Parent Coordinators in NJ
The best interest of the child is paramount in any parenting decision, which the parenting coordinator will focus on when helping resolve a conflict between the parents. Unfortunately in some bitter child custody cases, the parents may lose sight of what is in the best interest of the child and be overwhelmed with their emotions about their former spouse. In some extreme cases, a parent may encourage the child to hate the other parent, which is considered “parental alienation” and is a serious mental health issue in addition to being a legal issue. In those extreme cases in particular a Parent Coordinator may help the parents get back on track to keeping their child’s need first.
For ordinary day-to-day parenting issues, such as minor changes in the parenting schedule due to illnesses, holiday custody issues, and communication between the spouses, a Parent Coordinator can help the parents solve minor problems without them escalating into larger issues requiring judicial intervention. While a New Jersey Parent Coordinator does not replace the need for a family court judge in issues of child custody, the hope is that they reduce the amount of time that parents need to spend in court for parenting issues.
Child custody and joint parenting can be difficult for many parents. If you are having difficulty and need assistance, we may be able to help. Please call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at 201-845-7400 for a consultation with a NJ custody lawyer.Sources
Notice to the Bar: Parenting Coordinator Pilot Program – Program Guidelines and Related Material
Notice to the Bar: Parenting Coordinators – Conclusion of Pilot Program: Continuing Authority to Appoint in Individual Cases