A question was asked of me today -- what's the difference between a Parent Coordinator and a Parent Facilitator? The Texas Legislature changed the law in September 2009 to clarify the duties of a Parent Coordinator and added a new category called Parent Facilitator.
A parent coordinator (PC) is a person who is appointed by the court to assist parents in split families in resolving parenting issues through confidential procedures. A parent facilitator (PF) is a person who is appointed by the court to assist parents in split families in resolving parenting issues using procedures that are not confidential. (Texas Family Code sec. 153.601(3), (3-a).)
In order for a court to appoint a PC, the court must hold a hearing to determine whether the case is a high-conflict case and/or whether the appointment of a PC is supported by good cause and the best interest of the child. (Texas Family Code sec 153.605) The only objection to the appointment of a PC is on the basis of domestic violence by one parent against the other or the child. Even so, the court may appoint a PC and put in place some measures to protect the parent and child's safety. The standards are the same for appointment of a PF. (Texas Family Code 153.6051.)
So, basically this means that the PC cannot be called to testify in court about the PC proceedings. But, a PF can be called to testify regarding the PF proceedings.
The duties of a PC or PF include:
- identifying disputed issues,
- reducing misunderstandings,
- clarifying priorities,
- exploring possibilities for problem solving,
- developing methods of collaboration in parenting,
- understanding parenting plans and reaching agreements about parenting issues to be included in a parenting plan,
- complying with the court's order regarding conservatorship or possession of and access to the child,
- implementing parenting plans,
- obtaining training regarding problem solving, conflict management, and parenting skills, and
- settling disputes regarding parenting issues and reaching a proposed joint resolution or statement of intent regarding those disputes.
The court maintains the right to make decisions about conservatorship, child support, and posession of and access to the child. The court also maintains the authority to exercise management and control over the suit. (Texas Family Code sec. 153.606.)
In other words, the PC or PF can work to facilitate agreement on disputed issues or can encourage compliance with the court orders, but the PC or PF cannot permanently modify custody or possession orders.
Meetings with the PC or PF are informal and do not have to follow any set procedures.
A PC may submit a report to the court and parties as requested by the court. This report is limited to a simple statement as to whether the PC thinks parent coordination should continue. (Texas Family Code sec 153.608.)
A PF must submit a report to the court and parties as requested by the court. (Texas Family Code 153.6081.) The PF may make recommendations to the court and parties to implement or clarify provisions of the existing court order that are consistent with the intent of the court order and in the best interest of the child. However, the recommendations may not address conservatorship, support, or possession modifications. (Texas Family Code 153.082.)
The law requires a PF to keep detailed records regarding meetings and contacts with the parents, attorneys, or other persons involved in the suit. Those records must be made available to the attorney for a party, a pro-se party, or attorney for the child upon request.
Typically a PC or PF is paid by both parties in an equal allocation, but the court has the discretion to order some other method of payment.