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.

 

 

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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, 2011-2018, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. In 2014-2018, Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2016 and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.