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Michigan Legislature Adopts Measures to Ease Tensions in High-Conflict Domestic Relations Cases

March 18, 2015

High-conflict domestic relations cases create a significant drag on a court’s resources through ongoing disputes that range from who is responsible for paying for music lessons through charges of parenting alienation as a result of ongoing parenting time challenges. In a recent amendment to the Child Custody Act, the Legislature acted to expand the use of parenting coordinators to address such disputes.

Under the new law (MCL 722.27c), a court can appoint a parenting coordinator if both parties agree. Once appointed, the parenting coordinator works to implement existing court orders and resolve disputes that are within the parenting coordinator’s scope of authority. A parenting coordinator may make decisions regarding any parenting issue within his/her authority. The parties are free to appeal any such decision to the court.

Questions remain about how the new law will be implemented by each court, including the process for determining objective qualification standards for parenting coordinators. However, it is anticipated that a variety of benefits will result from use of parenting coordinators including alleviating clogged court schedules, reducing legal fees and costs for the parties, and most importantly, providing relief from high levels of stress and emotional impact on the parties and minor children in high-conflict cases, while encouraging parties to co-parent cooperatively.

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