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Probate & Family Court Judge Decision Of A Parent Coordinator Challenged

On May 8, 2014, I had the privilege of presenting an oral argument at the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts in the case of Bower v. Bournay-Bower. I represented the Father, William Bower. The issue before the Court was whether a Probate & Family Court Judge had the authority to appoint a parent coordinator where both parties did not agree to the appointment.

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This has now become the leading case on the appointment of parent coordinators. If you are interested, the decision can be found in full here: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/ma-supreme-judicial-court/1678067.html.

What Happened In Bower v. Bournay-Bower?

In Bower v. Bournay-Bower, the parties were involved in high conflict litigation for several years. When their divorced was finalized, the parties filed cross-complaints for contempt. Father was frustrated because Mother was not abiding by the joint legal custody order. Father requested the court to appoint a parent coordinator with binding authority to assist the parties resolve their ongoing disputes relating to the children. Mother was opposed to a parent coordinator. The Probate and Family Court Judge granted Father’s request. The Judge explained that by the time the complaints for contempt were in front of her, the time-sensitive nature of the issues raised in the complaints had made it such that she had no ability to offer either aggrieved party any relief.

Father agreed with the appointment of a parent coordinator and Mother appealed. The Court concluded that Judges in the Probate & Family Court possess the inherent authority to appoint parent coordinators in appropriate circumstances. However, when one parent does not consent to a parent coordinator, a judge does not have the authority to appoint a parent coordinator with binding authority. The Court acknowledged the importance of parent coordinators and recognized the advantages that parent coordinators provide to resolve day-to-day parenting issues and disputes, conserve limited judicial resources and provide a forum for resolution quicker than the Probate and Family Courts generally can.

If you have any questions about the use and appointment of parent coordinators, call the Law Offices of Lisa A. Ruggieri, P.C., at 781-489-3759.

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