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What Does a Parenting Coordinator Do in North Carolina?

Divorce and child custody proceedings are often adversarial and challenging processes. With cases that involve high stakes and emotions, courts may decide to appoint a parenting coordinator.

What is a Parenting Coordinator?

A parenting coordinator is an impartial third party who helps in high-conflict cases[1]. The coordinator has the authority to perform a number of tasks that involve compliance with court orders and dispute resolution. Some common potentially contentious areas that they may assist[2] with include:

  • Vacation and holiday visitation
  • Location and time of pickup and delivery
  • Visitation transportation
  • Diet
  • Clothing
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Discipline
  • Healthcare management
  • Education
  • Changes to the child’s appearance

The court maintains a list[3] of approved parenting coordinators because there are requirements for eligibility[4]. They must have a master’s degree or higher in psychology, social work, counseling, or law. There are also requirements for related experience, current licensure, specialized training, and continuing education.

A court may appoint a parenting coordinator if the parties consent to it, if one party files a motion for the appointment of a parenting coordinator, or if the court determines that it is in the best interests of the child[5].

When is a Parenting Coordinator Required by the Court?

If a court determines that appointing a parenting coordinator is in the child’s best interests, they can amend orders to account for necessary changes. In Medina v. Medina[6], the North Carolina Court of Appeals did just that.

The parties in Medina had spent years in litigation, unable to agree on issues such as religion, activities, and residence for their children. It was agreed that a parenting coordinator would be chosen, but the parties could not agree on who would be appointed. After both the mother and father filed various motions, the trial court granted the father’s motion to appoint a parenting coordinator but did not include which specific issues the coordinator would address.

The trial court later noticed factual errors in the order and held a new hearing to amend the mistakes, after which an amended order was entered, which established the scope of the coordinator. The mother appealed, alleging the trial court abused its discretion by changing the original order.

The appeals court upheld the lower court’s decision, stating that there was good cause to amend the original order. Specifically, the appeals court noted that there was a lack of reasonable progress in the appointment of a parenting coordinator, and the original order did not establish the scope of the duties.

The appointment of a parenting coordinator should not be viewed as a negative or punitive action; it is intended to improve decisions and interactions between co-parents and to benefit the children. If a parenting coordinator has been appointed in your case, or if you would like to request one be appointed, reach out to Woodruff Family Law Group. Our experienced family lawyers in Greensboro, North Carolina, have decades of experience helping families like yours. Call us to schedule a consultation.

[1] Article 5. § 50-90. Definitions.

[2] Id. § 50-92. Authority of parenting coordinator.

[3] North Carolina Judicial Branch. Parenting Coordinator List.

[4] Article 5. § 50-93. Qualifications.

[5] Id. § 50-91. Appointment of parenting coordinator.

[6] Medina v. Medina, 281 N.C. App. 690, 870 S.E.2d 253.