Primer on Parenting Coordination

Most couples divorce because they grew apart, because they think differently, or because they have different priorities. When these couples have minor children together, disagreements can often rise to the level of an argument. Since most parents have shared parental responsibility, and often think differently, it can be difficult to make decisions together.

Fla. Stat. 61.125 Parenting Coordination

In 2009, the Florida legislature created Fla. Stat. 61.125 Parenting Coordination which discusses the purpose of parenting coordination, the referral to a parenting coordinator, the qualifications and disqualifications of a parenting coordinator, the fees associated with parenting coordinator, the coordinator’s duty to report an emergency situation, and the coordinator’s liability limitation.

Parenting Coordination is designed to be a child-centered alternative dispute resolution process for parents who cannot make decisions together. The goal is to foster communication and assist the couple in creating or implementing a parenting plan. Upon prior approval of the parents and the court, the parenting coordinator may make limited decisions that affect the implementation of the parenting plan.

If there is currently or have been allegations of domestic violence in a relationship, then the Court cannot refer the parties to a parenting coordinator unless both parties consent. The Court must make a determination as to whether the consent of a party is given freely and voluntarily. Even if the parties agree, the Court may add safeguards to the parenting coordination process to keep the parties safe.

Who can be a parenting coordinator?

Not everyone can be appointed as a parenting coordinator. Pursuant to Florida law, a parenting coordinator must:

  • be licensed as a mental health professional be certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, be certified by the Florida Supreme Court as a family law mediator with at least a master’s degree in a mental health field, or be a member in good standing of The Florida Bar;
  • have completed three years of post-licensure or post-certification practice; a family mediation training program certified by the Florida Supreme Court; and a minimum of 24 hours of parenting coordination training in parenting coordination. This last requirement includes concepts and ethics, family systems theory and application, family dynamics in separation and divorce, child and adolescent development, the parenting coordination process, parenting coordination techniques, Florida family law and procedure, and domestic violence and child abuse related to parenting coordination
  • be in good standing and active status with the licensing authority and/or certification board.
  • If there are specific issues within a family, such as a child’s learning disability or a parent’s military deployment status, the court may require additional qualifications to address issues specific to the parties.

All communication between the parties and the parenting coordinator during coordination sessions are confidential with the following exceptions:

(a) when it is necessary to clarify a written agreement made during sessions;
(b) when the court cannot identify an issue to be resolved without it;
(c) when it is limited to the subject of a party’s compliance with the order for parenting coordination, with orders for psychological evaluation, counseling ordered by the court or recommended by a health care provider, or for substance abuse testing or treatment;
(d) when the parenting coordinator reports that the case is no longer appropriate for parenting coordination;
(e) when the parenting coordinator requests a replacement parenting coordinator be appointed;
(f) when the parenting coordinator must report without notice to the parties to prevent suspected emergency such as abuse or abduction, etc.;
(g) when the parenting coordinator is not qualified to address or resolve certain issues in the case and a more qualified coordinator should be appointed;
(h) when the parties agree that the testimony or evidence be permitted; or
(i) when it is necessary to protect a child (or elderly or disabled person) from future acts that would constitute domestic violence; abuse, neglect, abandonment, or exploitation.

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All parenting coordinators have a duty to inform the Court if they find reasonable cause to suspect that a child or elderly or disabled person will suffer or is suffering abuse, neglect, abandonment, or exploitation, or if they expect someone is or will wrongfully remove the child (or elderly or disabled adult) from the jurisdiction of the court without prior court approval or compliance with the requirements of the law. The parenting coordinators do not have to notify the parents that such report is being made to the Court. If, however, the parenting coordinator suspects that the parent has relocated within the state to avoid domestic violence, he or she may not disclose the location of the parent and child unless required by court order.

To read details and specifics of 2016 Florida Statute on Parenting Coordination, please follow this link: 2016 Florida Statute 61.125 Parenting Coordination

If you are in a situation where you think a parenting coordinator may be an option for you or if you are in a situation where a parenting coordinator is already or may soon be appointed, please contact one of the family lawyers at Fletcher and Phillips for a more case specific discussion about this issue at 904-353-7733.

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