The way it’s looking these days, you’ve got about a one in two chance of getting a divorce. That’s not me being negative — those are just the statistics. If you find yourself in that space, you may be wondering what you can do to make this transition easier.
We reached out to Charlotte attorney Libby James to give us some insight on a service you may not yet have heard of: Parent coordinators.
Parent coordinators seem like a new role. How did you find out about this?
“In 2005, the N.C. legislature passed a law permitting parent coordinators in our state. That’s the same year I passed the N.C. Bar and began my family law practice. I was immediately intrigued about the idea of becoming a parent coordinator.
“As a family law attorney, I’m always seeking ways to reduce the acrimony and delay that’s inherently part of family law cases which go to court. The parent coordinator removes the need for families to do constant trips to the courthouse to resolve issues. We work on issues with parents instead of a judge in court hearing their claims.”
What is the role parent coordinators play in the event of a divorce?
“A parent coordinator is a third party trained to assist parents in improving communication and reaching compromises on parenting issues. If the parents are unable to reach an agreement on an issue, the parent coordinator will make a decision.
“A judge can appoint a parent coordinator in North Carolina in any divorce case where there is a child custody order or action.”
(By the way, if the parents really hate a decision the parent coordinator makes, they can ask a judge to review it.)
Why would a person choose a parent coordinator?
“A person might request a parent coordinator if there is a high level of conflict or distrust between parents. The parent coordinator becomes the intermediary between the two parents.
“If you’re dealing with a co-parent who simply will not engage in the children’s lives or refuses to reach an agreement on any issue, the parent coordinator steps in to make decisions.”
What are the benefits of choosing this route?
“It can be a big relief to parents to have a person to turn to when they can’t reach a decision.
“Choosing to work with a parent coordinator also takes the case out of the court system. That’s important because it reduces painful delays. Getting court hearings can take months.
“Another benefit: It reduces costs to the parents, compared to having a hearing about a parenting issue in court.
“All of this helps the children. Decisions are made in a timely way and the children aren’t left in limbo about their summer vacation plans, their schooling, their after-school activities, and other important issues in their lives.”
Can you give us one success story that can show the importance of this role in a peaceful separation?
“One set of parents started off needing my assistance to make any decision. Everything was an argument – pick up/drop off times for the kids, switching vacation days, which tutor to use, you name it.
“After a year of working together, I rarely hear from these parents anymore. Through our work, they learned how to compromise to help their children, and perhaps more importantly, why to do it. They learned what it takes to make decisions together. Their children are happier for it.”
Photo Credit: Pexels
This story was written for CharlotteFive’s latest channel for parents in the QC, called QC Playground. Sign up for the weekly QC Playground newsletter here.