In 2008, the Pennsylvania Superior Court concluded that parents who could not cooperatively come to agreement on custody matters needed some place other than the courts to help make those decisions. Accordingly, the role of “parent coordinator” evolved in Pennsylvania, with parent coordinators being given “limited…judicial authority to address…custody matters.” For five years, the system appeared to work well, with parent coordinators prevented from making major changes to legal or physical custody rulings. Parent coordinators were typically mental health professionals or family law attorneys who went through specialized training. The Superior Court put together guidelines and submitted a proposed rule to the state’s Supreme Court.
In 2013, though, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that parent coordinators violated state law, granting judicial authority without supporting law. For the last four years, parents who have been unable to reach accord on custody differences have had few options to settle any disputes. Often, parents would have to file emergency petitions with the court, addressing such mundane issues as whether or not a child could go on a school trip or play school sports.
The Domestic Relations Procedural Rules Committee has announced that it will be proposing a new rule to the Supreme Court, reestablishing the role of parent coordinator. They have actually drafted the rule and made it available for comments before presenting it to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The proposed rule sets forth the qualifications, duties, scope of authority and other requirements for parent coordinators.
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