Senator Jim Buck has authored Senate Bill 250 relating to parenting coordination. The bill provides for judicial officers to appoint a parenting coordinator in child custody cases involving parties “who demonstrate ongoing high conflict or inability to effectively resolve issues . . .”
To serve as a parenting coordinator,an individual must be registered as an Indiana domestic relations mediator under Rule 2.5(B) of the Indiana Supreme Court Rules for Alternative Dispute Resolution and be an attorney licensed to practice law in Indiana with substantial experience in family law or be licensed as a mental health counselor under IC 25-23.6-8.5 with substantial experience working with high conflict parties.
Cost provisions provide that the court may consider whether other funds are available to pay for a parenting coordinator if a party is indigent or of limited income.
The initial term of appointment of a parenting coordinator must be defined in the order of appointment, but may not exceed sixty days. The initial term of appointment may be extended in sixty day terms upon agreement by the parties or by the court's own motion. The order of appointment must require that the parenting coordinator meet with each party at least three times during the initial term of appointment.
I have contact Senator Bray, Chair of the Committee on Civil Law, and asked him to set this bill for hearing. I have contacted Senator Buck and offered three amendments [italicized] to the bill as detailed below.
Sec. 6(c) A written agreement among the parties and parenting coordinator must detail specific issues, including the payment of fees and billing practices of the parenting coordinator. If a written agreement among the parties and parenting coordinator is not reached, the court shall apportion the fees of the parenting coordinator among the parties in the order of appointment, with each party bearing the part of the fees the court determines is just and equitable. [A court may revisit the determination of the apportionment of fees at any time upon its own motion, the request of any party, or the recommendation of the parenting coordinator.]
Reason: I have seen one case in particular where the wealthy parent created disputes for what appeared to be the sole purpose of running up the PC fees which were to be paid equally regardless. Knowing that one could be assessed with 100% or any lesser portion of the fees for such behaviour should help to reduce those types of actions and promote cooperation.
Sec. 7(b) If the parties are not able to resolve a dispute with assistance from the parenting coordinator, the parenting coordinator may submit written recommendations and written reports to the court for further consideration. [If any party requests court action to resolve the dispute then the parenting coordinator shall submit written recommendations and written reports, which include assessing responsibility for the impasse, to the court for further consideration] Recommendations and reports submitted to the court by the parenting coordinator must explain how the recommended change is expected to benefit the family and child. The parenting coordinator shall provide copies of the parenting coordinator's recommendations and reports to the parties once submitted to the court.
Reason: If an issue comes on for hearing I believe it would be helpful to a court to have a report from the PC as to who may have been recalcitrant, unyielding, or otherwise not helping the process of achieving agreements beneficial to the child.
Sec. 8(h) A parenting coordinator may not serve in a matter, or in multiple roles in a matter, that creates [or appears to create] a conflict of interest. The parenting coordinator shall refrain from associations that benefit the parenting coordinator, directly or indirectly, except from services as a parenting coordinator.
Reason: While those of us with a legal mind may easily discern a true conflict from appearance, a parent in a hostile relationship having a very subjective mindset may not have confidence in the PC if it appears to him or her that a conflict exists.
There does exist conflicting opinions as to whether courts have the authority to impose parenting coordination on parents. The 2010 opinion by the Indiana Court of Appeals in Paternity of CH upheld a court's imposition of parenting cordination where the record revealed that in court Mother had consented to such. Members of the Domestic Relations Committee at that time generally agreed that they could not impose the costs of parenting coordination on the parties.
The progress of this bill will be updated on the posting List of 2016 Indiana Child Custody, Child Support, Domestic Violence, and Child Well-Being bills.
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