Family: Parenting Coordinator Program

Quick Facts


In Wake County the court has adopted the Parenting Coordinator Program to help resolve high conflict custody disputes.

In North Carolina a high conflict case is one in which the parents show one or more of the following factors:

1. Excessive litigation

2. Anger

3. Verbal abuse

4. Physical aggression or threats of physical aggression

5. Difficulty communicating about or cooperating with one another

6. Other conditions that the judge believes justify the appointment of a Parenting Coordinator (PC).


How does the Parenting Coordinator Program work?

A PC is assigned by the Court to teach families to make decisions that are in the best interest of the child, explore possibilities of compromise and reduce misunderstanding and conflict.


What is the process that the court follows to assign a PC?

A judge may appoint a PC if the parents consent. Even if the parents do not consent, a PC may be appointed if the court determines that the case is a high conflict case and also finds that the parties have the ability to pay. If you have received a request to appoint a PC in your case, you should consult with a lawyer.


Is a court order necessary when the court appoints a PC?

Yes, a court order is necessary to provide the PC authority to make decisions and obtain information. The court order will detail the areas to be addressed by the PC.


Is the order appointing the PC enforced by the court?

Yes, the court order is like any other order of the court, enforced by the contempt powers of the court. It is very important to understand and follow the order.


Can a PC be assigned at any stage of a custody case?

Yes, but typically a PC is assigned after a custody order has already been entered.


How is the cost of a PC determined?

PCs are professionals that charge hourly fees that are typical of the practice they are engaged in. You must sign a contract which specifies the hourly rate the coordinator charges and the number of visits or meetings. The contract will also specify the retainer or advance payment required by the coordinator. Each coordinator may require a different amount of retainer and may charge a different hourly fee. The typical hourly fee is $200.0 per hour. The retainer amount ranges from $500.0 to $5000.0. We strongly recommend that if the other party files a motion for the appointment of a PC you consult with an attorney.


How will a party know the cost of the PC?

In addition to a court order, the parties and the PC will enter a contract regarding fee payments, billing practices and retainers. You should review the contract carefully and consult with a lawyer if you have questions.


Will the court consider each parent’s income when establishing payment of the PC?

Typically fees are allocated between the parties. If the income and assets of the parties are substantially different the court may apportion the fees in accord with the parties’ ability to pay. You should consult with a lawyer if you have questions about the apportionment of the fees.


What happens if one of the parties cannot afford to pay the parent coordinator’s fees?

The court must find that the parties have the means to pay the parenting coordinator before one may be appointed. If you have questions about your ability to pay the PC you should consult with an attorney before the court enters an order and as soon as you know that a PC is being considered.


Once a PC is appointed, can the order appointing a PC be terminated or modified?

Yes, any party for good cause can ask the court to terminate or modify the order assigning a PC. If you need to modify the order you should seek the advice of a lawyer.


If a PC has been appointed and a party finds that he cannot pay the coordinator’s fee, can the order be modified?

After an order has been entered assigning a parent coordinator, a party whose financial situation has changed and is unable pay the coordinator’s fees, must go to court and ask the court to modify the order. Unless the order by the court is modified or terminated, failure to follow the order may result in contempt of court.


Who can be a PC?

PCs are professionals with master or doctorate decrees in related areas such as psychology, social work, counseling, medicine or law. They must have at least 5 years of experience in relevant areas. They also receive training in child development and mediation.


How is the parent coordinator chosen for a specific case?

The court has a list of coordinators participating in the program and approved by the court. The parties elect the coordinator from the list.


What issues are decided by the PC?

The PC often deals with parenting issues not purely legal issues. For example, the time and place of visitation exchanges, changes in day care or schools, holidays and fee-splitting for the children.


Is the information provided to the parent coordinator confidential?

No, the parent coordinator process is not confidential. The PC reports to the court and can make recommendations regarding modification and clarification of the existing order.


Can the PC decide who will be the primary caretaker for the children?

No, the PC does not decide which parent will have custody. That decision remains the sole responsibility of the judge.  



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Last Review and Update: Jun 22, 2012
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