House Bill 5082, a newly passed amendment to the Child Custody Act, will expand the use of parenting coordinators through the courts. The Child Custody Act directs the court to assess the ability of parents to care for the children using a standard called “best interest of the child.” Unfortunately, in high-conflict cases, custody and parenting time disputes tend to clog the court docket, with parties bringing issues ranging from implementation of parenting time to disputes over whether to enroll a child in football. To assist the court in helping to resolve some of these issues, it can appoint a parenting coordinator “for a specified term to help implement the parenting time orders of the court and to help resolve parenting disputes that fall within the scope of the parenting coordinator’s appointment.” MCL 722.27c(1). The parents must agree to the use of a parenting coordinator before one is appointed. While the parenting coordinator has the authority to make decisions regarding any parenting issue that falls under the parenting time order, the parents may always appeal the parenting coordinator’s decision to the judge.
The benefits of a parenting coordinator in a high-conflict case are numerous. It saves court resources by giving parents a forum to resolve their disagreements outside of the courtroom. Moreover, it can sometimes save parents time and money by utilizing a parenting coordinator to help them find resolution to their conflict. Finally, the emotional turmoil that is often spared when parties avoid litigating their parenting disputes in open court can be priceless to both the parents and, ultimately, the children.