What is a PC/DM?
“PC/DM” stands for Parenting Coordinator/Decision Maker. A parenting coordinator is a third person who can be appointed by the court, whether by force or agreement, to assist parties with implementing a parenting plan or to help them with co-parenting issues and mechanisms. Parenting coordinators must have specific training and are appointed pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-128.1. In essence, a parenting coordinator’s primary function is to assist the parties in developing ways to work together to implement their orders. Like a mediator, a parenting coordinator tries to find mutual points of agreement or resolution. A parenting coordinator has no decision-making authority, cannot change custody orders, and cannot be called to testify in court. Parenting coordinators generally charge a retainer and hourly fee, which the court will usually apportion between the parties. A parenting coordinator’s term of appointment cannot exceed two years unless agreed to otherwise by the parties.
A decision-maker is a neutral third person, appointed by a court, to make decisions in a Colorado family law case, pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-128.3. A decision-maker can only be appointed by agreement of the parties, and the appointment, as with a parenting coordinator, shall also only run for two years, absent an agreement to extend it. Unlike the parenting coordinator, a decision-maker can make legally binding rulings, much like a judge, which can be quite difficult to get overturned or to challenge in court. In most instances in which people agree to a decision-maker, they do so with the belief that they can get disagreements resolved or legal matters dealt with more quickly than waiting for a court, which can take months, if not years, in some jurisdictions. An order appointing a decision-maker must set forth specifically what the decision maker’s authority is, whether related to visitation, custody, or the making of major decisions.
A PC/DM is a person appointed with the power to do both coordination and to make decisions. We generally discourage our clients from agreeing to the appointment of a parenting coordinator or a decision-maker, unless they are just dead set on proceeding with such. In either instance, the appointed becomes just one more person to pay in an already expensive process. In some extremely high conflict cases, we have found value in the appointment of a parenting coordinator. At the same time, one party can abuse the process to the financial detriment of the other by constantly engaging the coordinator with frivolous concerns. As such, we reserve recommendation for only certain cases. Likewise, we almost never advise our clients to agree to the appointment of a decision-maker. Again, a decision-maker is granted essentially the same power over you and your children as a judge, yet has much less accountability in terms of being able to be appealed or otherwise. Frankly, the process can become a popularity contest based on alliances and egos. As such, we generally believe it is better to let a competent and accountable judge decide child-related issues than a private third person. Each case is different, and in some we might occasionally advise that a decision-maker would be appropriate.