On February 3, 2010, the Appellate Division issued a reported (precedential) opinion in the case of Parish v. Parish.  This case is near and dear to me because I represent Mr. Parish and we made new law. 

In this post-judgment litigation we filed a motion seeking enforcement of the parties’ divorce agreement because the ex-wife interfered with his parenting time with the children and to fix a parenting schedule for the next several months. The schedule was supposed to be arrived at with the assistance of a parenting coordinator but the issuance of a domestic violence temporary restraining order against Mr. Parish’s ex-wife delayed that process. After the restraining order was dismissed, the parties went to the parent coordinator who made recommendations prior to the return date of the motion. Mr. Parish agreed with them – he ex-wife would not state if she agreed or not, waiting to see what the court would do.

The trial court denied Mr. Parish’s motion as moot, ordered the parties back to the parent coordinator to deal with the issues in the motion and required that the parties attend settlement conferences before filing any future motions, even enforcement motions.

We appealed arguing that (1) the trial court unconstitutionally impaired Mr. Parish’s access to the Court and (2) the court improperly abdicated its responsibility to a parent coordinator who cannot, by Supreme Court directive, address enforcement issues in any event.

The Appellate Division agreed in a 2-1 decision. In doing so, they crafted new requirements before a family part litigant’s access to the Court can be restricted.


Continue Reading APPELLATE DIVISION CREATES NEW PROCEDURE LIMITING JUDGE'S ABILITY TO RESTRICT A LITIGANT'S ACCESS TO THE FAMILY COURT

Over the years, judges began to make numerous appointments to attempt to, if not rid the courts, at least create a buffer for parenting and visitation issues that arose daily/weekly/monthly in high conflict divorce and post-divorce matters.  Sometimes the professional was called a parent coordinator, other times it was a therapeutic monitor, a mediator, a parenting coach, etc.  The role was generally the same, that is, to present these issues to a neutral third party that had either a legal or mental health background, or both, to assist the parties work out the differences and in many instances, make recommendations if they could not. 

These appointments were being done even though there was no specific authority for the appointments in the Court Rules or statutes.  In April of 2007, the Supreme Court started a parent coordinator pilot program in four vicinages, Morris/Sussex, Bergen, Middlesex and Union. To see the Notice from the Supreme Court and the standard form of parent coordinator Order, click here.

The Court saw the program to serve the following purpose:  "A Parenting Coordinator is a qualified neutral person appointed by the court, or agreed to by the parties, to facilitate the resolution of day to day parenting issues that frequently arise within the context of family life when parents are separated. The court may appoint a Parenting Coordinator at any time during a case involving minor children after a parenting plan has been established when the parties cannot resolve these issues on their own.  The Parenting Coordinator’s goal is to aid parties in monitoring the existing parenting plan, reducing misunderstandings, clarifying priorities, exploring possibilities for compromise and developing methods of communication that promote collaboration in parenting. The Parenting Coordinator’s role is to facilitate decision making between the parties or make such recommendations, as may be appropriate, when the parties are unable to do so. One primary goal of the Parenting Coordinator is to empower parents to develop and utilize effective parenting skills so that they can resume the parenting and decision-making role without the need for outside intervention. The Parenting Coordinator should provide guidance and direction to the parties with the primary focus on the best interests of the child by reducing conflict and fostering sound decisions that aid positive child development."


Continue Reading High Conflict Divorces: Parent Coordinators And Other Professionals Enlisted To Help With Parenting Time Issues