Section 1: Specific Questions About Parenting Coordination

1. What is a Parenting Coordinator (PC)?

A Parenting Coordinator (PC) is a trained mental health or legal professional with experience working with high conflict separated parents. The coordinator assists parents with implementing their parenting plan and making the necessary changes needed to establish a collaborative parenting partnership. The Parenting Coordinator facilitates resolution of disputes, educates parents about children’s needs, monitors parental behavior and, with prior approval of the parties and/or the court, makes temporary decisions within the scope of the court order or appointment contract. (Legal professionals should contact PACE directly for criteria for attorney certification and an application form.)

2. What is the purpose of Parenting Coordination?

The overall emphasis is to offer children the opportunity to grow in a home environment free from the devastating stress of being caught in the middle of parental conflict. Parenting Coordination combines assessment, education, case management, conflict management and sometimes decision-making functions to help high-conflict parents who have demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to make parenting decisions on their own or comply with parenting agreements and court orders. The family’s progress is monitored to ensure that parents are fulfilling their obligations to their child while complying with the recommendations of the court. The process is intended to assist parents establish and maintain a healthy co-parenting relationship by reducing parental conflict and the risk factors that influence a child’s post-divorce adjustment.

3. How is a Parenting Coordinator (PC) assigned to a case?

The Parenting Coordinator is usually appointed by the Court with the consent of the parents. Parents may also volunteer to utilize the services of a PC.

4. Can a Parenting Coordinator make recommendations and temporary decisions for the parents?

Parenting Coordinators can make recommendations and decisions for parents within the scope of the appointment order. The Parenting Coordinator’s authority is delineated in the court order or by the consent of the parents.

5. What kinds of issues does a Parenting Coordinator address?

If specified in the court order, a Parenting Coordinator may have authority to resolve the following types of issues:

  • Minor changes or clarification of parenting time schedules including vacation, holidays, and temporary variations from the existing parenting plan.
  • Transitions or exchanges of the children including date, time, place, means of transportation and/or transporter.
  • Health care management including medical, dental, orthodontic and vision care child-rearing issues.
  • Psychotherapy or other mental health care including substance abuse assessment or counseling for the children. (To be done by a third-party)
  • Psychological testing or other assessment. (To be done by a third-party)
  • School choice issues
  • Extracurricular activity disputes
  • Religious observances and education
  • Communication between the parents about the children
  • Clothing, equipment and personal possessions of the children
  • Haircuts, tattoos, ear and body piercing issues
  • Role of and contact with significant others and extended families
  • Parenting classes for either or both parents
  • Any other issues as agreed by the parents and included in the court order or stipulation appointing the parenting coordinator

6. Can Parenting Coordinators make decisions that would change legal custody and physical custody from one parent to the other or in other ways, substantially change the parenting plan?

No, this is beyond the scope of the Parenting Coordinator’s role.

7. Can a Parenting Coordinator serve in more than one role?

No, Parenting Coordinators should not be appointed or accept a Parenting Coordinator appointment if they have been involved in a case as a guardian ad litem, custody evaluator, therapist, or one parent’s attorney.

8. Does the Parenting Coordinator perform the same function as a Guardian ad Litem (GAL)?

No, a GAL is a party to the case, serves as the child’s legal representative, and may make recommendations to the court that are in the child’s best interests. The PC is not a party to the case, does not represent either parent or any of the children. The PC attempts to facilitate resolution of issues for the entire family, and if necessary, makes decisions as authorized by court order. The GAL appointment ends when the case is disposed of in Court. The Parenting Coordinator’s role is on-going, within the scope of the particular court order or stipulation.

9. Do Parenting Coordinators offer legal advice?

No, offering legal advice is outside the scope of the Parenting Coordinator’s role.

10. How are Parenting Coordinators paid?

The court order or stipulation usually indicates the allocation of fees paid to the PC. More often than not, fees associated with the parenting coordination process are divided between the parties, taking into consideration the relative incomes of the parties, and giving the Parenting Coordinator authority to reassess allocation of fees depending on the circumstances. The Parenting Coordinator usually explains and discusses with the parents fees, costs and method of payment, in writing and prior to beginning the parenting coordinator process.

11. What happens if the parents disagree with a recommendation or temporary decision made by a Parenting Coordinator?

The method parents may use to voice their objections to a Parenting Coordinator’s recommendations are generally outlined in the court order or agreement. In some jurisdictions, a party may file an objection to any recommendation or decision made by a Parenting Coordinator within fifteen days after the recommendation of the PC. Responses may be filed within fifteen days after an objection is served. The Court follows its customary procedures, which may include a review of the objections and responses, and schedules the matter for a hearing de novo or enter other appropriate orders. However, the protocol used by jurisdictions vary.

Section 2: What is a Custody Evaluator?

A custody evaluator is a mental health professional who makes a written recommendation to the Court as to what custody-visitation arrangement would be in the best interests of the children involved.

Custody evaluations are most often utilized in highly contested custody disputes. In the course of an investigation, a custody evaluator will interview both parents, observe the children with each of the parents, conduct age-appropriate interviews with the children, and interview other significant people such as teachers, daycare providers, healthcare providers, extended family members and friends. It is not unusual for the professional to administer some standard psychological tests. It may also be helpful to the evaluator to visit the child’s home or to visit the place where the child may live.

In the interest of objectivity, the professional selected to conduct the custody evaluation should not be a person who has previously treated any member of the family. It is also recommended that each party pay one-half the costs of the custody evaluation, to avoid the appearance that the professional may be biased towards the parent who paid the fee.

A well drafted report will contain a summary of the information collected, an assessment of the family and the needs of the children and will also recommend a custody/visitation arrangement. The custody evaluator’s recommendation is just one factor that the Court will take into consideration when deciding what custody/visitation arrangement is in the children’s long range best interests.

Section 3: Frequently Asked Credentialing Questions

(1) Does the National Certification mean that I can practice in any state in the country?

It means that you have met criteria formulated by experts that represent the national standard for extra qualifications in the field designated. It’s always a good idea to find out if you can practice in a specific state by contacting the licensing bureau in that state. Many times you’ll find that no specific practice regulations are in force and that a simple courtesy letter from you is all that is needed.

(2) What is the PACE Credentialing Center?

The PACE Credentialing Center is a department within PACE responsible for the management of PACE credentials and specialty certifications. This department is responsible for the Academy Register of family court services and the Verifications Program

(3) How many credentials and specialty certifications does PACE offer?

PACE offers two credentials: Nationally Certified Custody Evaluator (NCCE) and Nationally Certified Parenting Coordinator (NCPC).

(4) How long has PACE had credentials and specialty certifications?

PACE has been offering credentials to mental health professionals since 1991, starting with the Registered Custody Evaluator. NCCE and NCPC have been offered since March 1, 2010. The credentialing of licensed attorneys as Nationally Certified Parenting Coordinators began on June 1, 2010.

(5) Are the PACE credentials and specialty certifications the same as a state license?

PACE specialty certifications provide recognition to those who have met national standards for higher levels of education, experience and knowledge, and are not a substitute for state licenses that may be required by a state in which you plan to offer your services.

A state license is issued to regulate the practice of mental health services and protect the public. A state license is issued by and useful only in the jurisdiction where the holder plans to practice. A PACE credential/specialty certification signifies that the holder has met the higher standards developed nationally in addition to having experience and working with certain populations. A specific state may have additional or different licensing requirements. To find out about a state’s licensing requirements contact the licensing board in that state.

(6) What is the purpose of a specialty certification?

PACE specialty certifications and other professional credentials provide recognition to those who have met national standards for higher levels of experience and knowledge.

The purpose for a specialty certification is to:

  • Assure the public a minimum level of competency for quality service by certified professionals.
  • Provide professional recognition through a process which examines demonstrated work competencies.
  • Assure an opportunity for ongoing professional development.
  • Promote professional and ethical practice by enforcing adherence to a code.

(7) What are the benefits of having a PACE credential or specialty certification?

Holders of PACE credentials and specialty certifications are recognized as meeting established national standards for their specialty. Holders have specialized knowledge, proven work experience, demonstrated competence, and adhere to ethical practice.

(8) I’m an attorney, how do I apply for a PACE credential or specialty certification?

Contact PACE directly for information about criteria, and an application for attorneys. 

(9) How long does it take to obtain a PACE credential or specialty certification?

Application processing is usually completed within 10 days from the date that we receive the application.

(10) Is there a renewal process?

Yes. Renewal for certification is every year. Renewal packets are sent prior to the expiration of the credential/certification.

(11) What are the criteria for the credentials and specialty certifications?

Click here for credentials and certifications criteria.

(12)  Are continuing education (CE) credits required for PACE credentials and specialty certification renewals, and if so, can I use the continuing education hours I submit for my state license to renew my PACE specialty certification?

Requirements for continuing education are tied to state requirements.  Each state defines its qualifications for licensure and continuing education.  A mental health professional’s license in good standing means that, in addition to having met your state’s requirements for education, training, experience, and supervision, and passing any required tests or exams, you have met the state’s requirements for continuing education for each license renewal period.  PACE members must attest annually that they hold a license in good standing, which indicates that they have met their state requirements for continuing education.  Additionally, PACE members must attest annually that they still satisfy the criteria for their specialty certifications of NCCE and/or NCPC (listed elsewhere on this website).

(13)  What CE’s are acceptable for credentials and specialty certifications?

The following Approval Guidelines for continuing education indicate continuing education generally accepted by state licensing boards and national professional organizations, including PACE:

  • Courses provided by colleges and universities.
  • NASW National or Chapter provided or approved trainings, workshops, and conferences.
  • Courses provided by national mental health associations and organizations certified to grant continuing education.
  • American Bar Association (national or state chapters) trainings, workshops, and conferences.
  • Courses provided by national mental health associations and organizations certified to grant continuing education.
  • Workplace in-service trainings or workshops.
  • Home study programs that are approved by state licensing boards or educational entities.
  • 50% (3 hours) may be obtained through accredited Web-based courses, distance learning, scholarly publications (e.g. books and journal articles), instruction (courses and workshops taught or presented), and computer-assisted instruction.