Contacting the PC. Your initial contacts with my office will be done through my assistant, Holli. I can only act as Parenting Coordinator when the judge in your case issues an Order stating that I am appointed as Parenting Coordinator (PC). I cannot be hired as a PC by the parties outside of a Court order. I also do not speak with either party personally before I’m appointed by the Court, as I don’t want either party to this I am biased because I spoke with the other party.
What a PC does, and how the process works, is covered by at least three separate documents, and you will be provided with all of those documents. The first is the Order issued by the court which appoints me. You will be given that document by your attorney, if you have one, and if you don’t, that Order of Appointment document is mailed to you by the Court. Please read that Order carefully as it spells out what a PC does.
The second writing that covers the PC process is Rule 74 of the Arizona Rules of Family Court. That Rule can be obtained from your attorney or through the rules books available online or through the court, or I will email you a link to that Rule if you request.
The third document that’s important is the PC Agreement. This is the agreement you make with me about the parenting coordination process. It is enclosed with this document, and it also includes some procedures which are specific to my office. It also covers PC fees, how they are paid, and how I charge.
In addition to these documents, parents will be provided with the Email Instructions for Parenting Coordination cases, and the parents are expected to follow those Guidelines in their communications with each other and with the PC.
Process. In most cases, I have individual meetings with each parent, and those are currently happening by Zoom or by telephone call, due to Covid. As soon as I’ve been appointed by the court, my office sends out an email with the documents described above and information about how to set up an initial appointment with me. Before our first Zoom/ telephone call, I need to have copies of all your parenting time court orders, which will include your original parenting plan plus any later court orders about parenting or about your children. In addition to those things, you can send me emails or other documents (like medical records or school records) that you think help to explain what the issues are in your case. It helps me to receive, before our first appointment, a brief list of the items you’d like to discuss with me.
After I’ve met with the first person, I will send a joint email to both parents outlining the issues that we’ve discussed and asking the other parent to get in touch with me for his/ her initial appointment. I make every effort to speak with both parents thoroughly before proceeding with any issues, but it is the responsibility of each parent to make sure and contact my office, submit the necessary paperwork, and pay the required fees in order to proceed with those appointments.
My primary job as PC is to help the parents resolve issues themselves. I do this by promoting communication and discussion of issues as they come up, and by reviewing and interpreting your Parenting Plan (court orders) to see if those orders help us resolve the issue. Sometimes the Plan needs to be amended to add things that were overlooked by the parents originally, or which are confusing. If the parents cannot reach agreement on a particular issue, the PC then has the authority to issue Binding Decisions to the Court about what should be done to resolve the issue.
Binding Decisions are just that – binding. In general, the only reason a parent can object to the court about the binding decision is an objection that I, as PC, have exceeded the authority granted by the court orders. I assure you that it will not be my intention to exceed the authority granted to me by the court order and Rule 74. I would always prefer that you, the parents, reach some agreement, even if significant compromise is necessary to do that. It’s better if the parents reach an agreement than having me, a third party, make decisions about your children. But I am here to make decisions if it’s necessary.
Once Binding Decisions are filed with the court, they become court orders and become a part of your original Parenting Plan or other parenting court orders.
Costs and Fees.
Parenting Coordination is expensive, although not as expensive or time-consuming as going to court on the issues. My rate is $375 per hour, billed in increments of .1 hour (6 minutes) for time actually spent. The clients are billed for time spent in meeting with the parents; telephone calls with the parents or others related to the case (see below); review of documents such as your Parenting Plan, evaluations, school records, medical records and similar items; and the time spent preparing a report with Binding Decisions for the Court. A great deal of the PC’s work is done by email, to minimize expenses. If I review emails where the parents are discussing issues and trying to resolve them on their own, and the parents are speaking respectfully to each other, I do not charge for those emails. I would prefer that the parents try very hard to resolve issues on their own. If they cannot, I then will charge for the review of emails as necessary for me to make a Report and Binding Decision on the issue. I also charge for reviewing emails that I must respond to, such as specific questions addressed to me, or to point out that emails are not respectful or are violations of the Email Guidelines.
With regard to fees and costs associated with PC services, parents divide these costs in some proportion (50-50; 60-40, or something else). The division of the PC fees is set by the court order which appoints me, and I can’t change the percentages (because I usually know little or nothing about each parent’s finances). But if I find that one parent is causing most of the PC fees to be incurred, or one parent’s actions caused excessive fees (such as continually writing inappropriate emails that I have to review and make decisions about), I can reallocate fees so that one parent pays more. If I do reallocate fees, I will make written findings about what happened to cause the additional or excessive fees.
ABOUT MEDIATION, PARENTING COORDINATION, OR PRIVATE REPRESENTATION IN A FAMILY LAW MATTER