Two and a half years ago, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) issued a decision regarding the ability of judges to appoint parenting coordinators to assist parties with their parenting plans.
In Bower v. Bournay-Bower, the SJC suggested that the Probate and Family Court promulgate a rule outlining the appointment of parenting coordinators. Following the advice of the SJC, the Probate and Family Court recently released Standing Order 1-17 covering how parenting coordinators can be appointed, who can be a parenting coordinator and what authority a parenting coordinator can possess. This Standing Order will take effect as of July 1, 2017. While a large part of the Standing Order (“Order”) deals with the implementation of procedural safeguards, the Order also delineates the authority of both the parenting coordinator and the Court in appointing a parenting coordinator. Under the Order, there are two ways a parenting coordinator can be appointed: 1) agreement by the parties, or 2) appointment by the Court. The appointment power of the Court, however, is not without limitations. For example, while the Court can appoint a parenting coordinator over the objection of the parties, the Court cannot give that coordinator binding decision making authority absent the express written consent of the parties. Additionally, if neither party is agreeable to paying the costs of the parenting coordinator, the Court cannot appoint one. Further, the Court can only appoint a post-judgment parenting coordinator for a period of two years. These limitations do not apply to appointments of a parenting coordinator through the agreement of the parties. For an in-depth look at the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision regarding the appointment of a parenting coordinator by the Court, stay tuned for Part II in this three-part series. Additionally, if you think a parenting coordinator may help your custody situation but are unsure of how to get one or what exactly his or her role should be, contact an experienced Massachusetts Attorney today who can help you with this process.