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NJ Courts Create a New Parenting Coordinator Program

New Jersey has formally adopted a practice that has been used in family court for some years: the appointment of parenting coordinators to help divorced or separating couples adhere to their parenting responsibilities and resolve disputes. The rule establishing the program took effect September 1, 2023, and the courts’ administrative office has issued a directive to aid with the program’s implementation.

The parenting coordinator’s job is to make co-parenting easier and less stressful for the entire family. The courts are clogged with cases in which divorced or separated parents have child custody, visitation or support disputes. These parents are sometimes openly hostile toward each other and arguments can often break out, causing emotional harm to the children.

Under the newly adopted program, the parenting coordinator is responsible for helping the parties implement their court-ordered parenting plan. The plan details each child’s living arrangements, visitation and parental legal authority. An effective coordinator can carry out the following functions:

  • Facilitating communications — Parents need to effectively communicate about their children but many simply do not. The parents often refuse to talk directly and might use the children as a go between for messages. This rarely works out well and it puts the children in an uncomfortable position. The coordinator can help relay information when necessary and encourage direct communications in the future. Better communication leads to better decision-making and more well-adjusted children.
  • Keeping parents focused — The whole point of being a parent is to protect the children and see that they thrive. But parents sometimes lose sight of these goals. In some cases, the parents’ focus is animosity or hatred of one another rather than the children’s well-being. The consequences often include anxiety, anti-social behavior and poor performance in school. The coordinator can impress upon the parents that the children must be their top priority.
  • Mediating — This means helping people in a parenting dispute to find common ground and to craft a feasible solution. A parenting coordinator in the role of mediator exposes the strengths and weaknesses of each side’s position and makes recommendations that can avoid a lengthy and expensive court battle. If the issue in the dispute is minor, the time and expense required to get a court hearing may not be worth the effort.

A coordinator can be chosen either by judicial appointment or by parental consent. The court can select an appointee from a state roster of qualified coordinators. Most individuals on the roster are experienced attorneys, mediators or mental health professionals who receive state-sponsored training. The newly issued administrative directive specifies the type and extent of training required. The parents can also choose a coordinator, who can be a close friend or family member that both parents trust.

Kisha M. Hebbon, LLC in Somerset is a full-service family law firm with experience representing people in co-parenting matters across north-central New Jersey. Please contact us online or call 732-873-6464 for a free initial consultation.

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