Changes to Parenting Coordinator Rules
Beginning in 2016, there are a number of changes coming to Parenting Coordinators. Parenting Coordinators fall under Rule 74 of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure. Parenting Coordinators have been popular among parents who believe they can work out their issues with a third party, opposed to having to return to court and spend hundreds on legal fees and costs. It is important for parents and attorneys to understand what changes are being made. The most important changes are as follows:
- Both Parents have to agree on having a Parenting Coordinator appointed.
Prior to 2016, a Parenting Coordinator could be requested by either party or appointed on the Court’s own motion. Even if one parent did not want to use a Parenting Coordinator, the Court could still appoint one. In fact, it was common for the Court to do so. This sometimes made it difficult for Parenting Coordinators to work with a parent who did not want to be there.
However, any new appointments of Parenting Coordinators or reappointments require that both parents agree to have one. If either parent does not want to use a Parenting Coordinator, the Court cannot appoint one. In addition to agreeing on having the Parenting Coordinator appointed, the parents have to agree on a few other items as well. The parents must agree on who they will use, and also what percentage each parent will pay of the Parenting Coordinator’s fees.
- Any recommendations made by the Parenting Coordinator will be adopted.
Parenting Coordinators used to make recommendations to the Court, which could be adopted or thrown out. Usually, if a parent had an objection to the recommendation, it would not be adopted. With the changes, any recommendations made will be adopted. A party can still file an objection. However, the objection must be filed within 20 days of receiving the recommendations, and the objection can only be made if the Parenting Coordinator acted outside of his or her scope. This will likely make it much more difficult to throw out a recommendation. Some have stated that the changes are more like a binding arbitration.
- Attorneys can have Ex Parte contact with the Parenting Coordinator.
Attorneys used to be limited in the communications they could have with the Parenting Coordinator. If an attorney wanted to speak with the Parenting Coordinator, the opposing party or attorney were required to be included in the conversation. This would include phone calls, meetings, and even e-mails. The change to the rule now allows the attorneys to contact the Parenting Coordinator without any one from the other side present. This will hopefully allow more productive conversations between the Parenting Coordinator and attorneys, due to the fact the attorneys will not be arguing over each other.
It is important to keep in mind these changes, as well as make sure your attorney is aware of them. You have to remember that whatever is decided by the Parenting Coordinator will very likely become a final order. One other important tidbit is to remember that the changes ONLY affect new appointments and reappointments after January 1, 2016. It will not apply retroactively to appoints prior to then.