Friday, April 26, 2013

Judges cannot delegate decisions

The very popular legal blog How Appealing announces:
"Only judges may make decisions in child custody cases." Yesterday, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania issued an order adopting a new Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure that will eliminate the use of parent coordinators in child custody cases.

On December 31, 2008, a former client of mine lost his appeal challenging the legality of parent coordinators under Pennsylvania law. Although that battle was lost, the war (as they say) appears to have been won.
The new rule says:
Rule 1915.11-1. Elimination of Parenting Coordination.

Only judges may make decisions in child custody cases. Masters and hearing officers may make recommendations to the court. Courts shall not appoint any other individual to make decisions or recommendations or alter a custody order in child custody cases. Any order appointing a parenting coordinator shall be deemed vacated on the date this rule becomes effective. Local rules and administrative orders authorizing the appointment of parenting coordinators also shall be deemed vacated on the date this rule becomes effective.
The California courts have said that judges cannot delegate custody decisions.

I know, judges like Commissioner I. Joseph do it all the time, and just rubber-stamp the recommendations. I have pointed out the illegality on appeal, but I got nowhere.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I could not be happier that PC's have been eliminated. Mine caused me senseless thousands of dollars in legal fees in her attempts to overstep her authority; twice the court denied her attempts but yet I had to pay my lawyer AND THE PC to appear in court!

Anonymous said...

I had two court appointed PC's. The first never met with the parties together communicated by e-mail only after I visit to him .If you questioned his decision by e-mail, he would threaten to report you to the judge for not complying with the order.
The second made promise after promise how she would uphold her guidelines (which were appropriate ) but never enforced compliance in any way so she was just taking in my money .

lisa said...


i fear they have not been eliminated. I fear PA is going to the NY model which is that a Master or a PC will write up a recommendation and then the two parties will file objections and the judge will (almost always) approve the report.

and the one problem with the NY model is that it can take 3 years for a custody trial to be completed. and (prepare not to be shocked) the eventual judgement tends to mirror the temporary custody that was put in place over time. Its a farce and NY courts know that 97% of custody determinations are made by a judge approving a settlement and to be more efficient or more thoughtful would encourage people not to settle. Thus the system is kept in place for (perhaps justified) fear of the consequences of changing it.

Anonymous said...

I would like to report that they have not been eliminated. Now they are call custody evaluators and GAL's.
I was in court this morning and the GAL was used to make a recommendation to the judge on a contempt complaint on my wife.
Both the evaluator and GAL has been appointed by the court and have been asked to make recommendations to the court on my custody case.
This case is in Westmoreland County.