This year in Arizona, the Arizona Supreme Court convened a committee to review the parenting coordination rule, Rule 74, ARFLP, and make recommendations for changes. That Committee met several times and received numerous comments from parenting coordinators, attorneys, organizations, judges, and the public, particularly public users of parenting coordination services. After sorting through the comments and discussing substantive as well as procedural changes to parenting coordination, the Committee delivered its revisions to the Rule (see Petition Reply July 2015 changes — see Appendix B of that document for the new version of Rule 74). That version was adopted by the Arizona Supreme Court (see Adoption Order) on August 28, 2015. The new version goes into effect for all new parenting coordination appointments made on or after January 1, 2016.
All parenting coordinator appointments that are already in effect as of January 1, 2016 remain governed by the existing version of Rule 74, until the expiration of that appointment.
The major changes to Rule 74 include:
- A parenting coordinator can be appointed only by stipulation of the parties; the court cannot appoint a parenting coordinator on its own;
- The recommendations of a parenting coordinator are binding on the parties and cannot be overturned by the Court on objection, except in very rare instances (that the parenting coordinator exceeded the PC’s authority);
- The stipulation of the parties to have a PC appointed must include specifics that the parties understand how the PC’s fees work and that the parties pay the PC an hourly rate, and that the parties can pay those charges;
- The stipulation will either name a specific PC and that person’s hourly rate (which may not be increased during the appointment term), or the stipulation will name the method by which the PC will be chosen (i.e., the submission of a “blind list” to the judge, who will then choose the specific PC from that list).
As the allocation for payment of the PC’s fees and the length of the PC’s term was always an integral part of an order appointing a PC, the changes essentially come down to three important changes: (1) A PC cannot be appointed by a judge unless the parties expressly stipulate to it; (2) The PC’s decisions are final and binding, with no right to object based on disagreement with the decision; and (3) The parties’ agreement that they know what the PC charges and they can pay for it.
I prepared a PC Appointment Stipulation that I believe meets the requirements of the revised Rule 74. Please note that there are no representations that this form of Stipulation meets all the requirements or will absolutely be accepted by a judge for appointment; it is offered merely as a form for consideration, and it can be modified as anyone using it deems necessary.
There is most likely an error in the final new version of Rule 74, in section E(2) regarding reappointment of the PC. That subsection states that the PC can be reappointed for a new term so long as the parties “acknowledg[e] the parent’s understanding and acceptance of subdivisions 1-4 in paragraph B, above.” The problem and probable mistake is that paragraph B has SIX subdivisions, not 4. Subsection 5 of paragraph B is regarding the term of the PC, which is probably covered elsewhere in a stipulation to reappoint a parenting coordinator, so that’s a minor omission. But Subsection B(6) is an important one—-that’s the subsection that provides that the PC’s decisions are binding. There’s no obvious reason why that agreement, to make the PC’s decisions binding, would not also apply for the reappointment term. I’m guessing that that is a typo which will be corrected, probably even before the new Rule goes into effect on January 1.