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Superior Court Affirms Standard of Review

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In an opinion filed in December 2012, the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed its prior holding as to the standard of review of parenting coordinators’ decisions in custody cases.

Parenting coordinators are individuals whom the court appoints to aid enforcement of custody orders. After the court enters an order for legal and/or physical custody, the court might appoint a parenting coordinator if the parents
have difficulty communicating between each other or are unlikely to abide by the custody order without outside supervision.

In a recent case, A.H. v. C.M., the Superior Court affirmed that a trial court must review the decisions of a parenting coordinator by conducting a de novo hearing. In a de novo hearing, the court reviews an issue from a clean slate, without considering the decision-making process of the tribunal below.

In A.H. v. C.M., the father reported an incident to the parenting coordinator, who found that the mother had violated one of the coordinator’s policies regarding the parents’ communications with each other. The mother filed a petition for review of the coordinator’s decision, seeking a de novo hearing, but the trial court denied her petition without a hearing. The mother appealed.

On appeal, the Superior Court held that the trial court’s refusal to conduct a hearing denied the mother her due process rights. The trial court could not simply rely on the transcript of prior proceedings to review the parenting coordinator’s decision.

This case evidences the complex procedural issues that can arise in Pennsylvania child custody cases. If you or a loved one needs help navigating a child custody matter, please do not hesitate to contact the dedicated family law attorneys at Petrelli Previtera.

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