Effective immediately, on May 24, 2023 the Illinois Supreme Court adopted Rule 909 (“SCR 909”) which allows for each judicial circuit to adopt rules for the conduct and role of a Parenting Coordinator (“PC”)
A PC is an Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”) tool designed to assist co-parents engaged in high conflict co-parenting. Usually, PCs are mental health or family law professionals experienced in promoting safe, healthy, and meaningful parent-child relationships. PCs assist co-parents with implementing and complying with the parenting plan orders, exploring opportunities for compromise while reducing misunderstandings, educating parents on their child(ren)’s needs so they can make timely and appropriate decisions, and timely addressing and resolving conflicts that arise related to the parenting plan.
A PC can be appointed before or after a judgment is entered. The court can appoint a PC when it is deemed in the best interest of the child(ren). SCR 909 provides examples of when appointing a PC is in the best interest of the children such as when the co-parents have failed to adequately cooperate and communicate issues surrounding the children or are unable to implement a parenting plan or schedule, if mediation has not been successful, by agreement of the co-parents, or for other reasons deemed by the court. The co-parents are to follow the PC’s recommendation until or unless the court issues a ruling otherwise.
The duties of a PC include:
a) Monitoring parental behavior,
b) Mediating and making recommendations in the event of disputes between co-parents,
c) Make recommendations to the co-parents for outside resources,
d) Recommending guidelines for communications,
e) Document allegations of noncompliance; and
f) Make recommendations to the court.
A PC can be authorized by the court to make recommendations on the existing parenting plans to include the time, place, and manner of pick-up and drop-off of the children, disputes regarding the children’s education or extracurriculars, minor alterations of parenting time, holiday schedules, behavior issues, and health and personal care issues. The PC shall not make recommendations on allocation of parental responsibilities for decision making, an initial allocation of parenting time, any allocation of parenting time other than minor changes, relocation, visitation of a nonparent, child support, spousal maintenance, or the allocation of debt and or property.
Parenting Coordination is an ADR tool designed to help parties stay out of court. While a PC does not take away judicial authority, it temporarily vests in the PC an ability to call “balls and strikes” on day-to-day parenting issues. Several states including Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and North Carolina already have PC rules or statutes. SCR 909 further legitimizes the role of a PC in Illinois and supports the already existing PC rules in Cook County (See Cook Country Court Rule 13.10).
Unlike mediation, where if the parties do not reach an agreement, forward motion is at a standstill until the lawyers negotiate or a court rules, a PC has the authority to make a decision which not only helps co-parents work through difficult issues but allows parents and their children to quickly and efficiently move forward with their lives.