Title 252—ALLEGHENY COUNTY RULES
In Re: Civil Rules of the Court of Common Pleas; Rules Doc. No. 1 of 2010
[40 Pa.B. 1399]
[Saturday, March 13, 2010]
Order of Court
And Now, to-wit, this 25th day of February, 2010, It Is Hereby Adjudged, Ordered and Decreed that the following Rule of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Civil Division, adopted by the Board of Judges on January 28, 2010, shall be effective thirty (30) days after publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin:
Civil Procedure Rule 1915.17 Appointment of Parenting Coordinator
By the Court
DONNA JO McDANIEL,
1915.17. Appointment of Parenting Coordinator.
(a) In cases involving repeated or intractable conflict affecting implementation of a Final Custody Agreement, Parenting Plan or Order, concerning custodial parenting time or responsibility, the Court may, on the application of either party or its own motion, appoint a Parenting Coordinator to assist the parties in implementing the custodial arrangement set forth in the Custody Agreement/Parenting Plan/Order and in resolving related parenting issues about which they do not agree. Appointment of a Parenting Coordinator shall occur when the Court concludes that such action serves the best interests of the child(ren).
(b) The Parenting Coordinator shall discuss relevant parenting issues with both parties and other persons as needed, and shall attempt to facilitate a mutually accepted resolution.
(c) If the parties are unable to resolve the issue(s), the Parenting Coordinator is authorized (but is not required) to decide the issue.
(d) The Parenting Coordinator has authority to decide issues concerning partial physical custody and visitation to the extent set forth in the Custody Agreement/Parenting Plan/Order appointing the Parenting Coordinator. The following specific issues are excluded from the Parenting Coordinator's function and decision-making authority:
(1) A change in legal custody decision-making authority set forth in the Custody Agreement/Parenting Plan/Order;
(2) A change in primary physical custody (residential parenting time) as set forth in the Custody Agreement/Parenting Plan/Order;
(3) A change in the court-ordered custody schedule (parenting time) that substantially reduces or expands the child(ren)'s time with one or both parties;
(4) A change in the geographic residence of the child(ren)'s (relocation) that would render implementation of the current Custody Agreement/Parenting Plan/Order impossible or impracticable;
(5) Determination of financial issues, other than allocation of the Parenting Coordinator's fees.
The Parties may mutually agree in writing to submit any of the excluded issues set forth above to the Parenting Coordinator for facilitation and recommendation which recommendation shall only become binding upon written agreement of the parties.
(e) The Parenting Coordinator shall be either:
(1) a licensed mental health professional with a master's degree (or equivalent or higher degree) who has practiced at least 5 years; or
(2) a licensed attorney practicing family law for at least 5 years.
(f) The Parenting Coordinator's qualifications shall include, at a minimum:
(1) Training or experience in family dynamics, childhood development, custody, separation and divorce; and
(2) Training in the parenting coordination process and family law as established by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court; and
(3) Forty hours of mediation training under Pa.R.Civ. P. § 1940.4, excluding mediation supervision under Pa.R. Civ.P. § 1940.4(a)(4); and
(4) Training in the dynamics of domestic violence; and
(5) Completion of at least ten continuing education credits in any topic related to Parenting Coordination in each two year period.
(g) Protocols for the Parenting Coordination process shall be set forth in the Order appointing the Parenting Coordinator and/or by separate agreement between the parties and Parenting Coordinator.
In cases where abuse (as defined under 23 Pa.C.S. § 6102) is alleged, the protocols should include measures for the safety and protection of the participants, unless the Court deems the measures unnecessary.
(h) A Court-appointed Parenting Coordinator is an officer of the Court, and has quasi-judicial immunity.
(i) Communications with the Parenting Coordinator are not confidential.
(j) The Parenting Coordinator's decisions may be provided to the parties verbally, but shall be communicated in writing as soon as practicable and filed in the prothonotary's office at the parties' custody docket.
(k) Decisions made by the Parenting Coordinator shall be binding upon the parties pending further Order of Court.
(l) Any party seeking judicial review of the Parenting Coordinator's Decision must file a Petition for de novo hearing within 20 days of the filing of the Decision stating specifically the issue(s) to be reviewed and attaching a copy of the Decision. The Petition must be served on the other party(ies) and the Parenting Coordinator, in accordance with the Rules of Civil Procedure. The hearing before the Court shall be de novo. The Court shall hear the case on the record, and shall render a decision within the time periods set forth in Rule 1915.4.
(m) The parties shall share the cost of the Parenting Coordinator pursuant to the parties' respective financial circumstances or as the Parenting Coordinator or Court may otherwise direct.
(n) In allocating costs, the Parenting Coordinator or Court may consider whether one party has caused a disproportionate need for the services of the Parenting Coordinator.
(o) In review proceedings under subsection (l), the Court may elect to impose counsel fees and/or the Parenting Coordinator's fees upon the non-prevailing party, upon cause shown.
(p) The Court may maintain a roster of individuals it deems qualified to serve as Parenting Coordinators, and may establish training and grievance procedures if it deems them appropriate.
(q) The Order entered pursuant to this Rule shall be substantially in the following form:
Comment To The Rule
Following the entry of a final Custody Order, some cases involve repeated or intractable conflict. These cases involve repetitive filings and litigation that detrimentally affect the children and disproportionately consumes limited judicial resources.
Parenting Coordination can be an effective tool to prevent escalation of conflict between the parties, including (but not limited to) cases where domestic violence is or has been involved. The Parenting Coordinator's initial role is to attempt an agreed resolution of disputes between the parties. Failing that, the Parenting Coordinator is authorized to make decisions as set forth in Rule 1915.17 (d). As Pennsylvania law precludes mediation in cases where domestic violence is alleged, the methods used by the Parenting Coordinator must conform to that prohibition where applicable.
: Plaintiff, : IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS : ______, COUNTY, vs. : PENNSYLVANIA : : NO. ______ : : Defendant : CIVIL ACTION—CUSTODY
[AGREEMENT, PARENTING PLAN AND] ORDER
FOR PARENTING COORDINATION
AND NOW, [the above-captioned Parties agreeing and] the Court finding that it is in the best interest of the child[ren], [NAMES OF CHILDREN, DOB], that a Parenting Coordinator be appointed to assist the parties in implementing the custodial arrangement set forth in the Custody Agreement/Parenting Plan/Order dated ______ and in resolving related parenting issues about which they do not agree, the following is [STIPULATED AND] ORDERED:
1. APPOINTMENT AND TERM:
______ is appointed as the Parties' Parenting Coordinator for a term of [ __ ] months, or until the resignation of the Parenting Coordinator or termination of the appointment by the Court, whichever first occurs. The Parenting Coordinator's Terms of Engagement are attached hereto and are incorporated into this [Custody Agreement/Parenting Plan/Order]. The Court shall have authority to sanction a party for non-compliance with the Parenting Coordinator's Terms of Engagement.
Legal counsel for ______ [or either party, if pro-se] shall provide copies of all Orders, Pleadings and Custody Evaluations in this case to the Parenting Coordinator within ten (10) days of the date hereof.
2. ROLE OF THE PARENTING COORDINATOR:
A. Parenting Coordination involves two components:
1) The Parenting Coordinator shall attempt to resolve issues arising out of the custody order/court approved agreement/parenting plan through facilitation, mediation, consultation, coaching and education, all of which are non-decision-making functions;
2) If it is apparent to the Parenting Coordinator that continued similar efforts are unlikely to resolve the issue(s), the Parenting Coordinator shall have the authority to resolve the dispute by providing a Decision for the parties on the issue(s).
B. The Parenting Coordinator will not function as the psychotherapist, counselor, attorney or advocate for the parties, or the parties' child[ren], or family. However, the Parenting Coordinator is permitted and encouraged to facilitate communication and agreement between the parties whenever possible, and shall always act in a manner conducive to the best interests of the child[ren].
3. PARENTING COORDINATOR'S AUTHORITY:
The Parenting Coordinator, in order to implement the custodial arrangement set forth in the Custody Agreement/Parenting Plan/Order and resolve related parenting issues about which they do not agree, is authorized to make decisions about issues that may include, but are not limited to, the following:
A. Dates, times, places and conditions for transitions between households;
B. Temporary variation from the schedule for a special event or particular circumstance;
C. Minor adjustments to the physical custody schedule as set forth in the current Custody Order/Agreement/Parenting Plan;
D. School issues, apart from school selection;
E. Child[ren]'s participation in recreation, enrichment, and extracurricular activities, programs and travel;
F. Child-care arrangements;
G. Clothing, equipment, toys and personal possessions of the child[ren];
H. Behavioral management of the child[ren];
I. Information exchange (school, health, social, etc.) and communication with or about the child[ren];
J. Coordination of existing or court-ordered services for either of the parties or child[ren] (e.g. Psychological testing, alcohol or drug monitoring/testing, psychotherapy, anger management, parenting class, etc.);
K. Other related custody issues that the parties mutually agree, in writing, to submit to the Parenting Coordinator.
4. EXCLUSIONS FROM PARENTING COORDINATOR'S AUTHORITY:
A. The following specific issues are excluded from the Parenting Coordinator's function and decision-making authority, except as provided in subparagraph (B) hereinbelow:
1) A change in legal custody decision-making authority set forth in the Custody Agreement/Parenting Plan/Order;
2) A change in primary physical custody (residential parenting time) set forth in the Custody Agreement/Parenting Plan/Order;
3) A change in the Court-ordered custody schedule (parenting time) that substantially reduces or expands the child[ren]'s time with one or both parties;
4) A change in the geographic residence of the child[ren]'s (relocation) that would render implementation of the current Custody Agreement/Parenting Plan/Order impossible or impracticable;
5) Determination of financial issues, other than allocation of the Parenting Coordinator's fees;
6) Other: _________________ .
B. The Parties may mutually agree in writing to submit any of the excluded issues set forth above to the Parenting Coordinator for facilitation and recommendation which recommendation shall only become binding upon written agreement of the parties.
5. NON-CONFIDENTIALITY OF COMMUNICATIONS:
No communications of the parties and/or their lawyers with the Parenting Coordinator are confidential. The Parenting Coordinator may communicate in writing with the Court regarding any matter, and shall send contemporaneous copies of any such communication to [the parties (if pro-se)] legal counsel.
6. SOURCES OF INFORMATION:
Each party shall provide the Parenting Coordinator with all information that the Parenting Coordinator requests, including signed HIPAA releases and other forms requested. The Parenting Coordinator is authorized to contact any professional or other individual as the Parenting Coordinator deems necessary (e.g., the children, therapists, physicians, childcare providers, teachers, family members, etc.).
7. COMMUNICATION WITH THE PARENTING COORDINATOR:
The Parenting Coordinator shall determine the protocol of all communications, interviews, and sessions, including who shall or may attend the sessions (including the children), and whether the sessions will be conducted in person or by other means. Where domestic violence or abuse, as defined under 23 Pa.C.S. § 6102, is alleged, the protocols should include measures addressing the safety of all participants, unless the Court deems the measures unnecessary.
B. Oral and Written Communications With The Parenting Coordinator:
The parties and their attorneys shall have the right to receive, but not to initiate, oral ex-parte (one-sided) communications from the Parenting Coordinator, but the fact of such communication shall be known to the other party. Any party or legal counsel may communicate in writing with the Parenting Coordinator provided a copy is sent to the other party simultaneously. Any documents, tape recordings or other material which one party gives to the Parenting Coordinator must also be made available to the other party or his/her legal counsel for inspection and copying. In accordance with paragraph 5 hereinabove, no such communications are confidential.
C. Written Communications Between the Parenting Coordinator and Appointing Judge
(1) The Parenting Coordinator will have the ability to initiate written communication with the Appointing Judge, and shall contemporaneously send copies to both attorneys
(a) in the event of non-compliance of a party with any provision of this Appointment Order (including provisions relating to the compensation of the Parenting Coordinator); and/or
(b) detailing the Parenting Coordinator's reasons for withdrawing from service in the case.
(2) Absent an emergency affecting the child[ren]'s health or welfare, any communication from the Parenting Coordinator to the court shall be in writing, and shall be copied simultaneously to the parties (or, if represented, counsel). If the Parenting Coordinator has communicated orally with the Court on an emergency basis, the Parenting Coordinator promptly shall communicate to the parties (or, if represented, counsel) in writing the substance of the oral communication.
8. PARENTING COORDINATION DECISION-MAKING PROCESS
A. Prior to the Parenting Coordinator making a Decision, the Parenting Coordinator shall provide a notice and opportunity for each of the parties to be heard, unless exigent circumstances render contact with both parties impracticable or potentially dangerous to a party and/or the child[ren]. In the event a party is given advance written notice of a session but does not attend, the Parenting Coordinator may make a Decision despite that party's absence.
1) The Parenting Coordinator's Decisions may be communicated to the parties orally, but must be confirmed in writing a soon as practicable and filed in the Prothono- tary's Office at the parties' above-captioned custody docket;
2) The Parenting Coordinator's Decisions shall be binding upon the parties unless and until revised by Court Order.
9. JUDICIAL REVIEW:
A. Review of Decisions:
Any party seeking judicial review of a Parenting Coordinator's Decision must file a Petition for a de novo hearing within 20 days of the filing of the Decision, specifically stating the issue(s) and attaching a copy of the Decision. The Petition must be served on the other party(ies) and Parenting Coordinator in accordance with the Rules of Civil Procedure. The hearing before the Court shall be de novo. The Court shall hear the case on the record, and shall render a decision within the time periods set forth in Rule 1915.4.
B. New Court Proceedings:
Prior to filing any new motion, petition or complaint with the Court involving non-emergency custody or parenting of the child[ren] within the scope of the Parenting Coordinator's authority, the parties shall participate in no fewer than two sessions with the Parenting Coordinator to attempt resolution of the specific disputed issue[s] (and to permit a Decision to be made to the extent authorized by paragraph 3 hereinabove).
C. The procedures set forth in this Section 9 are mandatory, and may not be waived by the parties.
10. QUASI-JUDICIAL IMMUNITY:
In accordance with Pa.R.Civ.P. § 1915.17, the Court-appointed Parenting Coordinator is an Officer of the Court, and has quasi-judicial immunity. As such the Parenting Coordinator cannot be sued based on his/her actions performed within the scope of this [Custody Agreement/Parenting Plan/Order].
11. CHILD ABUSE REPORTING:
The Parenting Coordinator is a person required to report suspected child abuse pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6311.
The Parenting Coordinator cannot be compelled to testify in any proceeding absent a Court Order. In the event the Parenting Coordinator elects or is required to testify, he/she shall be compensated commensurate with his/her rate by one or both of the parties as the Court deems appropriate.
13. ALLOCATION OF FEES:
The parties will share the obligation to pay the fees of the Parenting Coordinator: -__ % Mother, __ % Father. Fees may be reallocated by the Court or the Parenting Coordinator if he/she determines that one party has disproportionately caused the need for the service. The Parenting Coordinator may, in his/her discretion charge parties for missed sessions or sessions cancelled less than twenty-four hours prior to the scheduled session.
14. TERMINATION/WITHDRAWAL OF PARENTING COORDINATOR:
A. Neither party may unilaterally terminate the Parenting Coordinator's services without Court approval, nor may the parties do so by mutual agreement without Court approval.
B. The Parenting Coordinator may withdraw from service at any time, upon ten days' written notice to [the parties], all counsel of record, and the Court.
C. Dissatisfaction with the Parenting Coordinator's Decisions is not grounds for termination. The opposing party and Parenting Coordinator shall be given notice of any petition for termination. The Court may rule on the petition(s) submitted, or may schedule argument or an evidentiary hearing.
A. The parties acknowledge that each has reviewed this Agreement and had the opportunity to consult with legal counsel.
B. Each party agrees to the appointment of ______ as Parenting Coordinator, and agrees to fully cooperate with the Parenting Coordinator in compliance with this Custody Agreement/Parenting Plan/Order.]
16. This Custody Agreement/Parenting Plan/Order shall not be effective until accepted by the Parenting Coordinator as evidenced by his/her signature below:
[SIGNATURES: Mother: Father: ______ ______ Date: ______ Date: ______ Attorney for Mother: Attorney for Father: ______ ______ Other Party (if any): ______ Date: ______
I agree to my appointment as the Parenting Coordinator for the parties as set forth above.
______ ______ ] Date Parenting Coordinator ]
[The above Agreement is entered as a Court Order.]
BY THE COURT:
______ _________________ , Judge
Plaintiff [Attorney For Plaintiff]:
Defendant [Attorney For Defendant]:
[Pa.B. Doc. No. 10-437. Filed for public inspection March 12, 2010, 9:00 a.m.]
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