Should We Start Appointing Parenting Co-Ordinators to Alleviate Court Waiting Times?
Posted: 24th March 2015
Posted in: News
Posted by: Dean Evans, Partner
Parenting Co-Ordinators? Should We Mirror Michigan’s Approach?
The Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia are clogged and unnecessarily burdened in our view, day-in and day-out by high conflict parenting disputes which have as their subject matter, where the children should go to school, whether the children should engage in extra-curricular activities and the point in time at which half of the school holidays might be calculable. The list of minor issues is seemingly endless.
In Michigan, USA, recent amendments to the Child Custody Act, sees the Legislature using parenting coordinators to address minor parenting issues and disputes.
The new law (MCL 722.27c), permit the Court to appoint a parenting coordinator if both parties agree.
Once appointed, the parenting coordinator works to implement existing court orders and resolve disputes that are within the parenting coordinator’s scope of authority as set by the Judge. A parenting coordinator may make decisions regarding any parenting issue within his/her authority. The parties remain free to appeal any such decision to the court.
Questions remain in Michigan about how the new law will be implemented by the Court including what qualifications the appointees should have. However, Michigan’s legislators reason that the a variety of benefits will result, including alleviating clogged Court dockets, reduced legal costs for litigants and a removal of some of the stresses and strains on spouse parties and the children involved in high conflict proceedings. It is also hoped that parties might be stimulated to co-parent cooperatively after engaging in the process.
The concept could have a similarly effective application in Australia….but we already have the option of this style of concept set out in the respective Rules of Court. In our Rules, we have the option of Arbitration – something lawyers and parties here appear to shy away from.
The case determination in an Arbitration can proceed as swiftly as the parties agree and be ready, in order to make a primary decision or to rule on the enforcement or interpretation of the Court’s previous Orders.
The concept rises or falls on the recommendations of the process by lawyers and similarly based upon parties to family law matters being educated about the availability of alternatives to the lengthy trial resolution phase in the Courts, where waiting times are really at or about two years in some instances for final hearings.
For our part, we support the notion, but consider it already set out in our Rules and easily applicable if all parties are in agreement.