PA Supreme Court Eliminates Parent Coordinators in Child Custody Cases

As of this summer, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court adopted Rule of Civil Procedure 1915.11-1, which abolished the use of parent coordinators in Pennsylvania child custody cases.  The new rule states that only judges may make decisions in child custody cases, which also includes hearing officers/masters, and therefore the courts shall not appoint any other individual to make decisions or recommendations or alter a custody order in child custody cases.  This new rule reflects the Court’s concern with judicial following recent controversies in two different counties regarding juvenile placement and guardians ad litem.  While the decision to abolish the coordinators favors transparency and will contribute to more direct accountability for decisions in child custody court, a lot of family law practitioners believe that the program had value and instead should have been tweaked instead of scrapped.  Some believe that the parent coordinators were helpful for the parents, attorneys, and courts while other believe the courts were outsourcing too much judicial authority to coordinators who often knew little of the law.  According to the Rule, any Orders that have previously appointed parent coordinators have been vacated as of May 23, 2013.