It is always regretful when two parents are unable to put the best interests of their children above their own “needs.” As a New Jersey divorce and child custody lawyer, all too often I see two parents who cannot agree on even minor, “day-to-day” decisions as they attempt to co-parent their child although they are no longer an intact family. In such cases, my law firm often highly recommends hiring a parenting time coordinator and memorializing this agreement in a Court Order that is then executed by a judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey. So what is a parenting time coordinator?
A parenting time coordinator is a Court appointed neutral third party that helps people resolve parenting issues that arise between them. I believe the purpose of a coordinator is two fold. First, they help the parties with decision making and suggesting how an issue can be resolved. Second, and more importantly, I believe they teach parents how to set their own differences aside and work together for the best interests of their children. Parenting time coordinators are usually psychologists or social workers and are paid for by the parents.
Over the years, we have had people ask me why hire a coordinator when it costs money. Why not just litigate? Although a parenting time coordinator is not free, I truly believe that the money is better spent on a coordinator then continuously litigating post-divorce. The coordinator is neutral and the process is much friendlier than having to see your ex in Court with attorneys. The process of seeing a coordinator is less stressful and teaches the parents to work towards compromise with the hope that they will eventually be able to effectively communicate without the assistance of such help. Also, the coordinator will be willing to go beyond the parameters of a divorce agreement and is flexible in his/her suggestions while a Judge is bound by the four corners of an agreement.
In other words, going to a New Jersey family court every time there is a parenting time dispute is very expensive. The average child custody and/or parenting time motion to the Court typically costs at least a few thousand dollars (as opposed to a few hundred dollars that a parenting time coordinator charges). Secondly, the more two parents “fight it out” in Court it almost always inevitably adversely affects the child. These are two great reasons to considering using a parenting time coordinator in order to both facilitate peace between the parents and to best protect the child.
Not too long ago, a client who we shall call Jane, went through such an issue. Jane and her husband had a very litigious and long divorce. At the end they were both angry with one another and wanted nothing more than never to have to deal with each other again. However, this was not possible because they have a six year old son. While things remained quiet for a few months after the divorce, Jane and her ex-husband began having more and more disagreements as it pertained to raising their son. One particular disagreement involved an innocent trip to Disney World. Jane wanted to take her son on a special trip to Disney and the same would require him to miss one day of first grade. She had saved for months to make the trip possible and was very excited to go. The parties’ divorce agreement stated that both parents needed to approve any days missed from school. Initially Jane’s ex-husband agreed to the trip verbally, but once it was booked he decided to punish Jane and would not grant his consent for the child to miss one day of school. While this may seem trivial, I have seen people disagree about much less. The parties spent significant funds filing a post-judgment application because they could not agree on the issue. This is just one example of Jane and her ex disagreeing and having to go to Court in order to have a family law judge decide what to do with their child.
What many people do not realize is that even though your high-conflict divorce may be final, you still need to interact with your former spouse for years to come if you are co-parenting small children. It should come as no surprise that this is easier said than done and unfortunately not everyone is easily able to co-parent after a divorce. One parent often says black, while the other says white. Although divorce agreements often include parameters that are meant to help parties deal with disagreements, it is impossible to anticipate every single event that may come up over an undisclosed amount of time. This leaves parents often finding themselves back in Court when they are unable to agree.
My law firm wants nothing more than for our clients to peacefully go on with their lives after a divorce or child custody dispute. Of course, the protection of children is always a top priority at my office. A parenting time coordinator can go a long way towards achieving these goals. To learn more, please do not ever hesitate to contact my office. Thank you.