February 10, 2010

Oregon Parenting Coordinators

We talk to a lot of parents in Oregon about parenting time and visitation problems, especially in high conflict cases.  From working with parents, I know it can be frustrating to wait months for a court date when a communication or visitation problem is happening now.   In some divorce cases, even after the divorce judgment is signed, high levels of conflict and animosity remain between the parents. One good solution for parents involved in high conflict cases is the use of a Parenting Coordinator, also called a Parenting Time Coordinator.  A Parenting Coordinator is a neutral person to whom parents can turn when in dispute on matters relating to the children.   They can be psychologists, social workers, lawyers, or mediators.  The purpose of the Parenting Coordinator is to provide parents an alternative to litigation and expensive, divisive court battles.

The court’s authority to appoint a Parenting Coordinator is found in ORS 107.425 (3), which provides in part:

In addition to an investigation, examination or evaluation under subsections (1) and (2) of this section, the court may appoint an individual or a panel or may designate a program to assist the court in creating parenting plans or resolving disputes regarding parenting time and to assist parents in creating and implementing parenting plans. The services provided to the court and to parents under this section may include: (A) Gathering information; (B) Monitoring compliance with court orders; (C) Providing the parents, their attorneys, if any, and the court with recommendations for new or modified parenting time provisions; and (D) Providing parents with problem solving, conflict management and parenting time coordination services or other services approved by the court. (b) Services provided under this section may require the provider to possess and utilize mediation skills, but the services are not comprised exclusively of mediation services under ORS 107.755 to 107.795. If only mediation services are provided, the provisions of ORS 107.755 to 107.795 apply. (c) The court may order one or more of the parties to pay for services provided under this subsection, if the parties are unable to agree on their respective responsibilities for payment. The court may not order that expenses be charged against funds appropriated for public defense services.

It can be faster and less expensive than using a lawyer to address a problem.  Parenting coordinators can help by resolving disagreements essentially without court intervention.  You can avoid costly court appearances, and have a  forum to openly communicate with one another.

If you find yourself returning to court on parenting issues either before or after you are divorced, retaining the services of a parenting coordinator may be a good alternative.