North Carolina Law encourages parents to work together to co-parent their child/children, even after a separation and divorce. However, the law also recognizes some of the practical difficulties that arise given the emotional nature of separation and divorce. To that end, North Carolina Law allows for appointment of Parenting Coordinators (commonly known as PC’s) in “high-conflict “custody cases.
PC’s are qualified individuals who are tasked with helping parents identify issues, reduce misunderstandings, clarify priorities, facilitate compromises, develop methods of collaboration between the parents and comply with the orders of the court regarding custody/visitation. PC’s can be particularly helpful in assisting custody litigants with navigating day to day issues which cause conflict in strife, preventing positive co-parenting.
Not every custody case needs a PC. Under North Carolina General Statute §50-91, litigants in a custody case may have a PC appointed by consent or on the court’s own motion after the entry of a custody order if the judge makes a specific findings that the action is a “high-conflict” matter, a PC would be in the best interests of the child/children and the parties are able to pay the cost associated with a PC.
Every separation may feel “high-conflict” at times, but our statutes are specific about what constitutes a “high-conflict” case for purposes of appointment of a PC. Pursuant to N.C.G.S. §50-90, “high-conflict” custody cases are cases which demonstrate an ongoing pattern of any of the following:
- Excessive litigation
- Anger and distrust
- Verbal abuse
- Physical aggression or threats of physical aggression
- Difficulty communicating about and cooperating in the care of the minor children
- Conditions that in the discretion of the court warrant the appointment of a parenting coordinator
In these situations, a PC may hold regular meetings (phone calls, email correspondence) with the parties and those communications are not confidential, meaning that they can report what is said to either party and/or their counsel. In fact, the PC must provide a written report to the court if they find that the existing custody order is not in the best interest of the child/children or the PC is not qualified to resolve or address a particular issue in the case.
Given their duties and responsibilities, PC’s wield quite a bit of decision-making authority which can have a major impact on custody litigants. In short, some of their decision-making authority is taken and placed in the hand of the PC, due to the parents’ inability to resolve matters themselves. If a custody litigant finds themselves with a PC, they should work with the PC and their attorney with the ultimate goal of the PC being a temporary solution to help set the parties up for co-parenting success in the long term.
The information provided is intended to be very basic in nature and not to be relied upon. All circumstances are unique. The family law attorneys at Vernon Law Firm are happy to set up a consultation to discuss specific details and circumstances surrounding Parenting Coordinators, Custody Litigation and all family law matters.