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Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.
Benjamin Franklin quote

Cases involving custody disputes can get very ugly, very quickly.  Courts across Ohio and lawyers practicing in the field are continually trying to identify new ways to assist families to avoid the nastiness and to develop tools to relieve the pressure on the parents, children, and the Court when the problems seem insurmountable.  These tools are usually double edged as they can be used as evidence in the case if they are unsuccessful in assisting the families in resolving it themselves.  Traditionally, these tools have included guardians ad litem, court investigators, and forensic psychological evaluations.

In the last few years, Ohio courts have begun experimenting with a new tool.  Parenting Coordinators.  Only a few counties have modified their local rules to specifically allow for parenting coordinators, but they are ordered without local rule in several counties.  A parenting coordinator is a lawyer who practices routinely in the field of family law or a licensed metal health provider such as a psychologist or licensed independent social worker.

Parenting coordinators are utilized and ordered in cases that have been identified to be high conflict families.  The parenting coordinator is paid a retainer up front.  When the parents reach an issue that they cannot resolve, they schedule a meeting with the coordinator.  The parenting coordinator attempts to facilitate an agreement between the parents.  If this fails, the parenting coordinator makes a decision that is final and binding upon the parents.  One or both of the parents may appeal the parenting coordinator's decision to the Court, which reviews the matter on its own and without regard to the decision reached by the parenting coordinator.

The purpose of having this decision maker outside of the Court is an attempt to alleviate the burden of contentious and expensive post decree litigation on the parties, allow for faster resolution of post decree issues, allow for intervention in issues that are important but may not rise to the level where a parent would file a motion with the Court, and relieve the Court of some of the caseload of high conflict post decree litigation.

Next week I will be interviewing Dr. Deborah Koricke, who has unique information to provide on this topic.  Dr. Koricke works with families in conflict in several capacities.  She is a psychologist who provides theraputic treatment to individuals and families, performs forensic psychological evaluations for custody litigation, and serves as a parenting coordinator.


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