As I noted last month, there is a new court rule for parent coordinators effective September 1, 2023. At the time, they had not yet published the Guidelines. Yesterday, Directive 16-23 was published. Attached to the notice, were Guidelines and Forms.
Interestingly, both the Guidelines and Forms are far more detailed than the original forms published in 2007, when the Parent Coordinator Pilot Program was instituted or the model Order published in 2012 when the pilot program concluded.
Two things of note. First, both the Guidlines and new Order make clear that the PC “shall not have authority to make recommendations regarding financial issues or modify legal and physical custody.” That custody portion of that is significant, because, in the past, PC’s often would be permitted to make temporary changes, which (1) were done without a hearing, (2) could take weeks or months to get a hearing, and (3) largely represented a potential abdication of the judicial authority.
Second, the Order makes clear that the PC’s recommendations “…shall become binding unless a party objects by filing a timely motion or order to show cause.” In the past, without this provision in the Order of appointment, the process could be a waste of time because if one party didn’t agree to the recommendation, nothing would happen and then months later, a judge would have to make a call. Now, the onus is officially on the objector to go to court if they disagree with the recommendation of the PC.
The Guidelines also answer the question of who can serve as a PC and what kind of training is necessary. for a court appointment, though the training is not required if the PC is jointly selected by consent of the parties.
While we know that PCs are not supposed to be replacements for judges, hopefully, the formality of the new guidelines will allow the role to serve its intended purpose of helping people with day to day issues that they cannot navigate on their own. It will be interesting to see whether the Guidelines actually create the uniformity that is intended.
Eric Solotoff is the editor of the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and the Co-Chair of the Family Law Department of Fox Rothschild LLP. Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Lawyer and a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys, Eric is resident in Fox Rothschild’s Morristown, New Jersey office though he practices throughout New Jersey. You can reach Eric at (973) 994-7501, or email@example.com.