Parenting Coordination Agreement

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Parenting coordination is a hybrid legal-mental health role that combines assessment, education, case management, conflict management, dispute resolution, and, at times, decision-making functions. Parenting coordination is a child-focused process¹ conducted by a licensed mental health or family law professional or a family mediator, with practical experience with high conflict family cases. The parenting coordinator (“PC”) assists parents engaged in high conflict coparenting to implement their parenting plan by: (1) facilitating the resolution of their disputes in a timely manner; (2) educating parents about children’s needs; and, (3) with prior written approval of parents or the court, making recommendations or decisions within the scope of the court order or appointment contract. The PC seeks to protect and sustain safe, healthy, and meaningful parent-child relationships. In agreeing to have Susan Gorey act as a PC, it is essential that the parties understand the scope of this process and her role. To this extent, the following provisions will apply unless modified in writing:

  1. Susan Gorey (Ms. Gorey or the PC) is a neutral party who will assist the coparents in interacting as parents/caregivers and making decisions that are in the best interest of their children. When appropriate, the PC will provide information regarding child development that may help parents reach a mutually agreeable decision on issues related to their children. If requested in writing by both parents and/or directed to do so by Court order, she will make recommendations or impose decisions regarding what she believes is in the children's best interest with the intent of resolving conflicts between parents when the following issues arise:²
    1. Minor changes or clarification of parenting time/access schedules or conditions including vacation, holidays, and temporary variation from the existing parenting plan;
    2. Transitions/exchanges of the children including date, time, place, means of transportation and transporter;
    3. Health care management including medical, dental, orthodontia, and vision care;
    4. Child-rearing issues;
    5. Psychotherapy or other mental health care including substance use assessment or counseling for the children;
    6. Educational/ psychological testing or other assessment of the children and parents;
    7. Education or daycare including school choice, tutoring, summer school, participation in special education testing and programs or other major educational decisions;
    8. Enrichment and extracurricular activities including camps and jobs;
    9. Religious observances and education;
    10. Children's travel and passport arrangements;
    11. Clothing, equipment, and personal possessions of the children;
    12. Communication between the parents about the children;
    13. Communication by a parent with the children when they are not in that parent's care;
    14. Alteration of appearance of the children including haircuts, tattoos, ear and body piercing;
    15. Role of and contact with significant others and extended families;
    16. Substance use assessment or testing for either or both parents, including access to results; and
    17. Parenting classes for either or both parents.
  2. The PC will not make any suggestions regarding legal/physical custody that would substantially change the parenting plan and/or custody arrangement implemented by the Court. Major decisions such as these are more properly within the scope of judicial authority. Ms. Gorey will not offer legal advice and each parent is strongly encouraged to consult with and/or retain his/her own attorney in the event there are legal ramifications associated with issues related to the children.
  3. The PC shall make every effort to respect parents' privacy and the privacy of the minor children acknowledging, the following:
    1. The PC’s work with the family is not confidential. No privileged relationship is created by this agreement or otherwise exists between Ms. Gorey and any of the parents or children. Within the confines of a professional relationship, this is an open process.
    2. Matters discussed between this PC and either parent via any medium are subject to disclosure to the other parent, at the PC’s discretion, in conformity with the primary goal of facilitating constructive child-centered communication and interaction. All information received by this PC during the parenting coordination process may be used in rendering a recommendation and/or binding decision.
    4. Certain state and federal laws protect the rights of minors. In particular, if granted access by the Court, the PC may be legally prohibited from and/or exercise her discretion to keep information received from, or about, a minor child from the parents. This means specifically that she may have access to data about the children that the parents do not. In general, this is most likely to apply to matters that otherwise would threaten the children's safety, compromise psychotherapy, and/or risk revealing matters of reproductive health, drug or alcohol use, and/or HIV/AIDS status.
    5. Despite the restrictions contained herein, it is possible that the PC’s records could become subject to Court review and/or disclosure to the Court under subpoena or Court order.
    6. The PC’s records may similarly be subject to release and disclosure in response to inquiry from the court, relevant state agencies, licensing bodies, and/or to defend herself against any claim made against her by either parent.
    7. In any instance in which the PC fears for an individual's safety, learns that a parent or parents intend to commit a felony, or has a reasonable suspicion that a child may be subject to abuse, maltreatment, or neglect, she reserves the right to inform relevant authorities immediately and/or to notify the Court as provided for by Rule 4-509. Should this occur, the PC shall alert the parents of this disclosure as soon as possible.
  4. The scope of the PC’s authority to make recommendations and/or binding decisions has been established by the terms of the Stipulation of the Parties for Appointment of Parenting Coordinator and the Order of Appointment, which is also incorporated herein by reference. The parents may expand that authority, as set forth in paragraph 1 above, but may not restrict it.
  5. Except for emergencies, all child-related communication and all scheduling of child-related activities shall be conducted via Our Family Wizard (OFW) and in accordance with the terms of the Parenting Plan, which is incorporated herein by reference. All PC recommendations and/or binding decisions will be posted in OFW. Each parent shall, within five (5) days of executing this Agreement, enter in the shared calendar all of their regularly scheduled parenting time as well as any child-related extracurricular activities for which the parent is primarily responsible.
    1. The PC shall have exclusive authority to determine the resolution process which may include but not be limited to individual or joint meetings, individual or conference telephone calls, video conferencing, and/or electronic communications. The parents shall participate in accordance with the PC’s direction as to the time, place and format of the contact. The PC shall have the authority to determine the protocol of all interviews and sessions and the power to determine who attends such meetings/contacts. While it is reasonable to expect that there will be more than one conversation or exchange on any given issue, it is important to recognize that the primary goal is to resolve conflict away from the children. Toward that end the PC reserves the exclusive discretion to determine how much time the parents will spend on any issue. The refusal or failure of either parent to participate in electronic communications and/or oral conversations on a matter presented to the PC for resolution shall not serve as an impediment to Ms. Gorey’s making a recommendation or binding decision on said matter. THIS PROVISION CONFIRMS EACH PARENT’S COMMITMENT TO THE PC PROCESS AND MEANS NEITHER PARENT MAY “BOYCOTT” OR IGNORE THE PROCESS WITHOUT CONSEQUENCE.
    2. No portion of the conversations between or among the parents and this PC may be audio, visually, or digitally recorded without the express written or recorded consent of all parties. It is further understood and agreed that any recording made in contravention of this section of the agreement shall be inadmissible in any court, administrative, or other proceeding or any investigation. Notwithstanding, all parties reserve the right to engage the services of a stenographer or voice recorder, at the expense of the requesting parent, or as a cost of service if employed by the PC in her sole discretion.
  6. Each parent agrees to submit all child-related disputes to Ms. Gorey prior to filing any motion or complaint with the court relative to said parenting issues.
  7. A parent may choose to bring a child-centered matter before the court if:
    1. The PC is unavailable or unresponsive to a request for intervention;
    2. A parent has brought the matter to the PC’s attention and she has advised that she is unable or unwilling to address the matter;
    3. The PC has addressed the matter and a parent disagrees with the recommendation and/or binding decision; or,
    4. The coparent is not abiding by, or acting in accordance with, the binding decision.
  8. There may be times that Ms. Gorey has addressed a child-centered conflict between the parents, and at the parents’ written request, has issued a binding decision with which a parent disagrees. Under this circumstance, the parents shall comply fully with the decision unless and until the Court directs otherwise. If a noncompliant parent’s failure or refusal to abide by this PC’s binding decision is the cause of an appeal to the Court by a coparent, then the non-compliant parent shall assume sole and complete responsibility for any and all costs and fees associated with that appeal process, including but not limited to opposing counsel’s attorney fees, subject to the discretion of the Court, in addition to all other consequences including but not limited to a possible finding of Contempt of Court by the judge. To proceed otherwise hobbles the PC process and subjects the children to unnecessary ambiguity, conflict and disruption.
  9. Ms. Gorey shall have access to any persons involved with family members including, but not limited to, the custody evaluator, lawyers, school officials, and physical and mental health care providers. Ms. Gorey shall have the authority to meet with the children, as noted above, any stepparent or person acting in that role, or anyone else she determines to have a significant role in contributing to or resolving the conflict.
  10. Ms. Gorey shall have access to all orders and pleadings filed in the case, as well as the custody evaluation report, school and medical records of the children, and reports of psychological testing that were generated prior to, during, or after the pendency of the case. The coparents shall execute releases of information immediately upon the PC’s request.
  11. The PC may choose to consult with knowledgeable individuals and/or experts in related fields as necessary (e.g., attorneys, accountants, physicians, teachers, guidance counselors, mental health professionals, substance abuse specialists, extracurricular activity coaches etc.). To the extent that there is any related consultant's fee, it will be clarified in writing in advance, and any associated fee is the sole responsibility of the coparents. The coparents agree to promptly satisfy any such requirement directly with the consultant so as to not hinder or delay the resolution of the matter at hand.
  12. To the extent that either parent or any child is in therapy or receiving counseling from a mental health professional or coach, the name and contact information of the provider shall be submitted to this PC within five (5) days of executing a service contract. The primary purpose of communication between and among this PC and these professionals is to ensure that there is a shared understanding of the goals of each professional’s engagement and to the extent possible to develop alignment among professionals on joint goals as set forth in the AFCC Guidelines for Court Involved Therapy, a copy of which shall be provided to each therapist, counselor, coach, and coparent. In the case of a child, at no time will the PC seek to discuss privileged information with any mental health professional without a court order.
  13. Should either parent choose to pursue further Court intervention, i.e., a custody/time sharing evaluation, the parents shall exclude Ms. Gorey from the list of possible evaluators. Further, the parents will not involve Ms. Gorey in the evaluation process by requesting and/or demanding the production of notes, records, etc., generated in the context of parenting coordination. If requested, Ms. Gorey will provide a written summary and/or communicate verbally with the custody/time sharing evaluator but, again, this will require the written permission of the parents or specific direction from the Court.
  14. If, during the course of her involvement, Ms. Gorey determines that the parenting coordination process is ineffective at protecting and sustaining safe, healthy, and meaningful parent-child relationships, she will communicate this to the parents in writing and similar communication will be forwarded to the respective attorneys and/or the Court when appropriate.
  15. All parenting coordination fees and costs shall be allocated between the parties equally or as ordered by the court, with the exception that Ms. Gorey shall have the authority to reallocate fees based upon a party’s responsibility for the actions that led to incurring those fees.
  16. In addition to reallocating fees, the PC shall have the authority to impose an award of costs against a parent. For example, the PC shall have the authority to require one parent to reimburse the other for any costs and/or expenses he or she may have suffered as a result of any breach of a term contained in the Parenting Plan, or any breach of an agreement or binding decision of this PC, again, subject to review by the court.
  17. A retainer fee of $1000 will be required at the commencement of the parenting coordination process. This fee will be applied to the final invoice or reimbursed if no balance remains at the conclusion of the parenting coordination process. Ms. Gorey’s fee for serving as a parent coordinator is $225 per hour.
  18. Ms. Gorey’s time will be billed in 15 minute increments including time spent in direct contact with the parties as well as ancillary time spent in relation to serving as a PC, including interviewing parents, children and collateral sources of information; preparation of agreements; correspondence, recommendations, decisions and reports; review of records and correspondence; telephone and electronic conversation; travel; court preparation; and appearances at hearings, depositions and meetings and any associated costs for these. If payment is not made at the time of service, a statement will be provided, and payment will be due within fourteen (14) days.
  19. At times, it may be necessary or desirable for the PC to have a conversation with only one parent. This is a normal part of the PC process and charges for the time billed for said individual conversation shall be shared between parents as per the allocation above. Nonetheless, the PC reserves the right to bill each parent individually for any individual contact with them or their attorney, subject to her sole discretion. An attempt will be made to schedule appointments at least one week in advance. The full cost of a scheduled appointment (usually one-and-one-half hours in person and one hour by phone) will be incurred should one or more of the parents due to participate cancel with fewer than twenty-four (24) hours’ notice or fail to arrive/participate, reasonably allowing for extreme weather conditions, illness, injury or other good cause. If either parent cancels with fewer than twenty-four (24) hours’ notice or fails to show up for a scheduled appointment or call, that person shall be responsible for the entire cost of the PC’s time of the scheduled appointment, subject to the discretion of the PC. In the event that one parent fails to appear at a scheduled meeting or conference call without good cause (as determined by the PC) that parent may also forfeit the right to offer input on the decision at hand as well as any other consequence as determined by the PC and/or agreed to by the parents. In the case of repeated tardiness or cancellations, the parents will discuss the issue and will be invited to suggest further appropriate consequences, which the PC will determine.
  20. Ms. Gorey may suspend or terminate services due to the lack of timely payment by either coparent.
  21. This contract shall expire one year from the date of execution. Thereafter, the coparents may elect, by written agreement and the execution of a new Parenting Coordination Agreement, to extend this agreement for a term of one year, subject to the Court’s approval.
  22. The PC’s position will be terminated prematurely, if:
    1. The Court orders that services be terminated;
    2. In Ms. Gorey’s discretion, if the foregoing terms are breached, including numerous absences, or a failure to keep payments for services current;
    3. If the PC determines that one or more parents are not cooperating or participating in good faith;
    4. If the PC determines that this process is not productive or somehow risks harm to anyone, including coparents, the child(ren) or herself; or
    5. If the PC determines that she is no longer able to work with either parent in a neutral or productive manner.

    If any of the foregoing occurs, then Ms. Gorey shall provide each parent and all counsel with at least fifteen (15) days written notice of resignation and the Court with notice at least seven (7) days prior to the effective date.

  23. The PC’s services also may be terminated prematurely by written agreement signed by both parents and approved by the court in accordance with the provisions of Rule 4 -509. If one parent wishes to terminate the services of the PC and the other parent does not agree, then an order of the Court is required to remove the PC.
  24. In the event that either or both parents for any reason choose to initiate any legal or administrative action against Susan Gorey for any action taken or not taken in her PC capacity and said action results in anything other than a full judgment in favor of the plaintiff(s) then the parent(s) initiating such action agree to fully and completely indemnify Ms. Gorey for any and all costs and expenses related to the defense of said action, including but not limited to attorney fees and costs as well as time spent on defending against such action.

¹Rule 4-509 outlines the scope of parent coordination.

²Other issues identified in the Order/Stipulation for PC services may also be addressed.