Welcome to the Florida Family Lawyer Blog

The posts in this blog focus on Florida family law issues including divorce , child custody/time-sharing , child support , mediation , domestic violence , parenting coordination , parenting rights of same-sex couples , and other family law topics. The posts discuss these topics under Florida law, and also focus on the family law local rules in Broward, Dade and Palm Beach Counties.

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Articles Posted in Parenting Coordination

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Parts I and II of this post went over some of the rules for parenting coordination, in particular some of the points of contention raised in the brief Sotero opinion, and that come up frequently in cases in Broward and Palm Beach counties also. Now the issue is how important are the rules, or rather how important is it if for the focus to not be on the legal rules once parenting coordination sessions start. I don’t think there is much disagreement with the idea that it is good to make the ground rules for parenting coordination clear at the beginning, in a Court order if there is one, and in a Parenting Coordination agreement between the parents and the parenting coordinator, so that everyone is clear regarding confidentiality, how the process works, fees, the goals, etc.

However, instead of or perhaps in between the worries and concerns regarding the rules, or legalities or what’s fair to one parent or the other, there have to be moments when there’s a focus on finding some small steps one or both parents can take to bring about even minor improvements or decreases in conflict, or increases in the period of time between difficulties. The small step might be something that has worked in the past, or a small adjustment that brings about a change in the way things unfold. This may sound far fetched as a way to improve a highly conflictual situation, but if you’re in a situation where it seems the conflict goes on and on, and nothing has worked, it might be worth going along and giving something else a try.

One of the hallmarks of a parenting coordination approach, I believe, is that it’s not really an “insight” oriented process. It’s not psychoanalysis where you’ll focus on your childhood, your “psyche”, etc., but one issue worth considering is whether one or both parents is holding onto the conflict between them, because there is some alternative that is worse. It can also be important in parenting coordination when progress seems stalled, for all of the participants to remember that the primary focus is on what’s good for the children, even though a solution or compromise, or taking a few days to think about an alternative, might not feel good for one or both parents at that moment.

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The primary issues raised by the Sotero case – the confidentiality of parenting coordination, and the authority the court can give to the parenting coordinator, are two issue often relevent to a Broward County divorce attorney or client, when they evaluate the possible use of a parenting coordinator in a contested divorce or other family law case. Even in contested cases, I believe parents in parenting coordination make efforts to address children’s issues for the sake of their children, but the parenting coordination happens within the context of an adversarial case, where the parents are often also going be concerned about how the parenting coordination may affect their case. So, issues parents may be concerned about are what information the parenting coordinator can bring back to the Judge regarding communications in the sessions or the parenting coordinator’s recommendations, and also the authority of the parenting coordinator.

There are some significant exceptions to the confidentiality rule for Parenting Coordination. Communications in parenting coordination are not confidential if:

  • The information is necessary to verify a written agreement between the parents during parenting coordination;
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A Florida appellate court, for the appeals district covering Miami-Dade County, recently entered a decision dealing with the authority of Parenting Coordinators in family law cases, and the confidentiality of communications in Parenting Coordination — Sotero v. Sullivan. In this case, the Mother appealed the decision of the trial court based on the trial court without the consent of the Mother:

  • giving the parenting coordinator the authority to make binding decisions regarding the minor child in the case;
  • giving the parenting coordinator the authority to impose monetary sanctions upon the parents; and