What is a “PCDM?”
In high conflict custody cases, parents may wish to hire a “PC” which means parenting coordinator or a “PC/DM” which is a parenting coordinator with decision-making authority.
Both of these experts can be appointed to your case for a term of up to two years at a time. Their appointment can be terminated sooner if both parents agree, if the PC/DM requests to be off of the case or if the judge takes them off of the case for cause. The court may appoint just a parenting coordinator or they could appoint a parenting coordinator with decision-making authority.
The PC/DM is appointed after there are final court orders on parenting time and decision-making. The PC/DM is used in cases where there is a high conflict to help the parents carry out the court orders and also to help resolve parenting issues that may arise.
The court can appoint a PC when the court believes that the parties are struggling with parenting issues that mediation has not resolved. Sometimes it is a simple issue like whether the child should play basketball. Sometimes the issues are more complex such as coordinating parenting time for a parent that lives out of state or whether the child should change schools. Often parents can come to agreements but there are many cases where parents just can’t agree. A PC will work with the parents either separately, jointly or both and try to help them resolve the issue. If the issue isn’t resolved, the PC has no authority to make the decision. However, if the court has appointed a PC/DM, after trying to help the parents resolve things themselves, the PC/DM can issue a written order making the decision. The issue is then resolved without going to court.
In high conflict cases, having a PC/DM can help the parties avoid repeatedly going back to court, having to hire attorneys, etc. It is draining on emotions, finances and most importantly, the children. Children are aware of the issues in dispute and the sooner the issue is resolved, the better. Using a PC/DM can resolve issues far faster than the court can get you in for a hearing.
The court can appoint a PC when it believes it is necessary in a case whether the parties want one or not. The court also decides how the cost of the PC will be paid.
The court cannot force parents to agree to a PC/DM but if they both agree that they want a PC/DM, the court will decide how the PC/DM will be paid if the parents have not agreed on that.
The biggest difference between these two experts is that the decision-maker can essentially issue an order resolving the issue. The decision-maker is more like an arbitrator and the parenting coordinator is more like a mediator.
When parties agree to use a decision-maker in their case they also choose what sorts of issues the decision-maker can make decisions on. It could be parenting time, extra-curricular activities, and even child support issues. Each PC/DM will have detailed guidelines and rules for how they work that they will go over with the parents after being appointed. Most PC/DMs will try to help the parents work out an agreement first, and the parents just cannot agree, the PC/DM makes the decision.