A new trend for high conflict families is starting in Oregon: the parenting-time coordinator (PTC). A PTC is appointed by the court to help parents resolve disputes over parenting time and other general children’s issues following a divorce. The PTC is usually a social worker or therapist specializing in family relations. This person may serve many functions: mediator, counselor, and advisor. In most cases, the PTC has the ability to make recommendations to the court in the event the parties are unable to reach an agreement. These recommendations are often given substantial weight by the court. Oregon Law prevents the parties from depriving the court’s ultimate authority in deciding issues related to children. Thus, the PTC does not have authority to make final decisions. Nonetheless, broad powers can be given to the PTC. Often the PTC reviews communications between the parties, settles parenting time disputes, designs parent “training” programs, and offers insight to parenting and communication between the parties. A PTC may need to “read the riot act” to a parent who is behaving inappropriately and may later testify or submit a written recommendation to the court.
The heart of the PTC’s job is to facilitate the parents’ ability to reach good decisions regarding their children. Many parents can do this without the need for a parenting-time coordinator. However, in some high conflict families the PTC may prove invaluable. Of course, there can be downsides to using a PTC. Most notable is cost; each time the PTC is utilized, a fee is charged. It may also create a dynamic whereby the parties do not learn to communicate with each other without involving the PTC. Also, the PTC may not be able to resolve all of the issues and litigation may still ensue. While a PTC may not be appropriate for most cases, a PTC can be extremely helpful in high conflict cases to ensure the best outcome for children.