A previous post on this blog discussed how Statesville, North Carolina, parents might be able to use a child custody mediator to resolve any child custody disputes or disagreements over either parent’s visitation rights. The ideal result of a child custody mediator is when the mediator is able to prepare a written agreement that both parties are willing to sign. Failing this, a mediator’s role in the case usually ends when either parent indicates that he or she is no longer interested in trying to negotiate an agreement.
North Carolina courts also have the authority to appoint someone called a parenting coordinator in a child custody case. While the parents can agree to have a parenting coordinator appointed and even choose, which parenting coordinator they want, courts also have authority to appoint one, even if neither parent really wants the court to do so.
To do so, a court must find evidence that the parties are in a “high conflict” custody or parenting time case, such as when the parties are having serious difficulties with communication or are constantly coming back to court with additional disputes. Unlike a mediator, a parenting coordinator stays involved in a case on an ongoing basis. While the coordinator’s primary job is, like that of a mediator, to help parents agree on matters related to their children, because of their ongoing role, they tend to have more flexibility when it comes to deciding minor or day-to-day issues.
Perhaps more importantly, a court may give the parenting coordinator limited authority to decide custody and visitation issues that the parents present to him or her. While a parent always has the right to have such decisions reviewed by the judge, the parent may have to abide by the decision until returning to court.
Sometimes, having a parenting coordinator involved can be a good first step to a better long-term custody arrangement. Whether the appointment of one of these officials is something to be resisted or encouraged is a question parents should take up with their family law attorneys.