As part of an Agreed Order, Mother and Father agreed they would use a parenting coordinator with a “limited role.” “Issues of custody and parenting time, other than minor issues such as vacation dates, special occasions, etc. [were to] be addressed by the Court . . . .” Later, Mother filed a motion to compel Father to pay Parenting Coordinator, and Father objected, requesting a hearing on why a parenting coordinator was necessary. Family Court ordered the parties to submit their outstanding issues to Parenting Coordinator, without conducting a hearing. Father later filed several motions regarding custody and contempt for which he requested a hearing. Family Court issued an order requiring all issues, including the contempt motion, be sent to Parenting Coordinator. Parenting Coordinator submitted recommendations to Family Court, to which Father filed objections and requested a hearing. Family Court denied the request for a hearing and adopted the recommendations of Parenting Coordinator as orders of the court.
Father argued, on appeal, that Family Court improperly delegated its judicial authority to Parenting Coordinator, and that he was denied due process when Family Court would not hold a hearing on the recommendation of Parenting Coordinator. The Court of Appeals held that Family Court improperly delegated its judicial authority to Parenting Coordinator and denied Father due process. It reasoned that family courts have the authority to enlist the assistance of person outside the judicial system, including parenting coordinators, through FCRPP 6(2). However, “a court may not delegate to a parenting coordinator the authority to resolve issues affecting the best interests of the children.” A parenting coordinator should not be a final decision-maker and independent review should be conducted by family court if a party so requests.
Digested by Nathan R. Hardymon