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Finally (2012)– A Trial Court that tells mother to “get lost,” gets reversed on appeal [AH vs. CM]

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This goes with the Parenting Coordination page, relates to the Yates v. Yates Parenting Coordinator case from Pennsylvania.

Here’s a quick and (random, from my point of view) summary of the situation, from a Pittsburgh Family Lawyer’s blog:

Denial of Record Hearing Violates Parenting Coordinator Laws
by BVERTZ on DECEMBER 21, 2012

For the past few years, some Pennsylvania counties have experimented with parenting coordination, which involves the appointment of a lawyer or therapist to assist parents in resolving routine conflicts that do not (read: “should not”) rise to the level of judicial intervention. Perhaps this method ultimately will be abandoned, as rumors have it, but for now, there is a recent decision emphasizing the importance of judicial oversight.

In A.H. v. C.M., 2012 PA Super 277 (December 18, 2012), a York County judge [[which one??]] was rebuked by the Superior Court for refusing to conduct an evidentiary hearing when one parent objected to the recommendation of a parenting coordinator. It seems that mother and father got into a brouhaha over something that happened at a child’s school recital. (The precise nature of the dispute is not identified in the opinion, but the trial court’s reaction and even the Superior Court opinion imply that it was a minor incident.) The parenting coordinator heard from both parents and issued a recommendation that “Mother had violated the parenting coordinator’s policy regarding communication between the parties.”

{{How is that a “recommendation”?? Did it have consequences, or was it just a blot on her record?}}

Mother filed exceptions, which required the judge to conduct a de novo hearing under local rules and Yates v. Yates, 963 A.2d 535 (Pa. Super. 2008). Instead, the judge gave Mother four minutes to argue at motions court, and then heard from father and the parenting coordinator. The trial court adopted the parenting coordinator’s findings and warned the parents to never again darken its door. Mother appealed.

In its decision, the Superior Court rebuked the trial judge for citing Yates while disregarding its holding, which requires an evidentiary hearing when there is a dispute over a parenting coordinator’s findings. The Superior Court also warned the judge about a comment that “the court did not want to see this case back again, and would deny any future petition for review of the parenting coordinator’s decisions.” The warning was accompanied by a footnote citing the relevant sections of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

The mother, on this one, cited Yates in the appeal. There’d been a disagreement, Dad called the Parent Coordinator, “Audrey Woloshin,” (AFCC) and a Decision of Parenting Coordinator was entered. I don’t know its contents, other than that one parent disobeyed a communications policy (with the other parent) the parenting coordinator had set up, which is one more thing to spank “bad” parents with.

Below that, some more indicators of HOW Parenting Coordination was Pushed as a solution to “High-Conflict” custody cases — both Parent Coordination and “high-conflict” being AFCC trade jargon meaning “more services for us, and more trainings to guar-ON-tee we’re the experts… and get our terminology together….

The A.H. vs. C.M. case which cited the YATES case

:
The parent coordinator there was “Audrey Woloshin,” so afterwards, I also looked her up. AFCC connection….

Understanding, I’m no attorney!, here’s A.H. (father) vs. C.M. (mother), argued October 2012. Apparently, the court gave mother all of four minutes to protest an issue regarding the parenting coordinator; she appealed.

Seems to me the field is introducing more problems under under the guise of solving problems:

C.M. (“Mother”) appeals from the custody order entered on April 26, 2012,1 wherein the trial court denied, without a hearing, her motion for review of the decision of the parenting coordinator appointed for her child, S.M. (“Child”), with appellee, A.H. (“Father”). We reverse the order and remand with instructions.
[ 58 A.3d 824 ]

In its Opinion pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a), the trial court failed to set forth any findings of fact or procedural background in this matter. We will set forth sufficient factual history and procedural background in order to enable appellate review of the matter. . . . . .

{{in other words, the trial court just “blew her off…”]]

After an incident allegedly occurred at Child’s school recital on February 29, 2012, Father contacted the parenting coordinator, Attorney Audrey Woloshin.*** In a Decision of Parenting Coordinator entered on March 30, 2012, the parenting coordinator found that, with regard to the incident, Mother had violated the parenting coordinator’s policy regarding communication between the parties.


When the mother requested a review, the court determined, I gather:

We believe that the transcript of the proceedings from April 25, 2012, including a thorough explanation by Attorney Woloshin, satisfies the requirements for a review, without the need to hold a separate hearing. We determined that Attorney Woloshin acted appropriately under the circumstances, and within the scope of her powers granted by the Order for Parenting Coordination.


[[FOOTNOTES HERE interesting — court tells mother to get lost 4/25, entered a duplicate order, 5/11. Mother caught the court’s comments that it planned to violate her due process rights in the future, too. Also note — Parenting Coordination, like many practices, got started through procedural rules from county to county:

1.  We observe that the trial court entered a duplicate order on May 11, 2012.

2.  FN2. At least one Pennsylvania county, Erie, adopted local rules authorizing the appointment of parenting coordinators and delineating their roles in high-conflict custody disputes. See Erie County Local Rules 1940.10–1940.16. Likewise, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Domestic Relations Procedural Rules Committee is considering a proposed Rule of Civil Procedure and a model Order of Court that, if adopted, would unify parenting coordination procedures across the state. See [Anderer, supra].

2.  Mother requests this Court to consider the trial court’s comments that the court did not want to see this case back again, and would deny any future petition for review of the parenting coordinator’s decisions without reviewing them. Mother’s Brief at 12. In accordance with Mother’s request, we caution that such commentary indicates an intention by the trial court to violate Mother’s due process rights in the future. {{!!!}}

We note that any trial court that fails to apply the requirements of our decision in Yates, which affords litigants involved with a parent coordinator order due process protections, faces reversal by this Court. Further, we observe that Canon 3(A) and (C) of the Pennsylvania Code of Judicial Conduct provides, in pertinent part, as follows: Judges should perform the duties of their office impartially and diligently.The official duties of judges take precedence over all their other activities. …. While recognizing that the canons do not have the force of substantive law, we invoke them here as the Code sets forth a norm of conduct and “is intended to impose standards of conduct upon the judiciary to be referred to by the judge in his or her self assessment.” Commonwealth v. Druce, 848 A.2d 104, 109 (Pa.2004).

Wonder what else that order said — but sounds like, Mom got reprimanded for breaking a PC’s communication rules. Notably, Attorney Woloshin just so happens to be primetime AFCC and in those fields (see bio), linked above. (See her website link). Notice York County Bar Association, 2008 (newsletter/posting?) has a hopeful, forward-looking commentary on Parenting Coordination as an up-and-coming court-appointed profession, mentions Woloshin, and cites as one of its goals — to promote parent coordinators!

1.         2008 Family Law Section Goals:
 
A.        To maintain and increase the Pro Bono Program for custody cases.
B.         To have at least four (4) Continuing Legal Education Seminars for the  year.
C.        To invite guest speakers from various organizations affecting family law to speak at monthly section meetings.
D.        To promote a social component to the membership that includes food and libations at section meetings.
E.         To support the implementation of Parent Coordinators to assist parties in resolving custody disputes without going to court.
F.         To provide regular updates to the Section to include relevant case law, rules, legislation and topics of interest.
 


[[notice other presenters — pay attention to Bar Association Speakers!]]
We were fortunate to offer guest speakers at our regularly scheduled meetings to include State Representative Bev Mackereth, Carol Davenport from the Child Advocacy Center and Robin Sterner of Family Child Resources, Inc.. to address topics of import to the bar, bench and the parties. (A nonprofit behavioral health firm marketing certain services, including “Cooperative Parenting” classes and “KidsFirst” classes, through the courts…)
 
Many of our meetings were complimented by serving food and refreshments for our members and guests.  Some meetings were held away from the Bar Center to include the offices of Stock and Leader for a Cinco de Mayo party, attending a York Revolutions baseball game, and celebrating the year end holiday party at Judge Cook’s residence.  This adds to the camaraderie [[Schmoozing]] for the members.
 

This year alone has seen the implementation of several Parent Coordinators either appointed by the Court or agreed to by the parties to assist the litigants in resolving disputes without court intervention.  This is a trend that is increasing both state and nation-wide and may very well be the wave of the future.  Members of our Section such as Audrey Woloshin, Esq., Kathleen Prendergast, Esq. and Barbara Stump, Esq. are all trained and court approved to serve as Parent Coordinators.

 
Interesting — where’d they get the idea that Parent Coordination might be “The Wave of the Future“? (The link is from a 2013 publication, but the terminology is from parent organization, most likely. They resonate to the same frequency). See Pre-Conference Institute #8, and Thursday morning workshop #2: “How to Establish a Pro Bono Parenting Coordination Program” (San Diego presenters).



MORE PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL FOR THIS FIELD (2006)….

The “PBI” (Pennsylvania Bar Institute) put out a book on Parent Coordinators for High-Conflict Custody cases (guess where that term “high-conflict” came from?). It’s a (fairly long)book published in 2006!

PARENT COORDINATORS IN PENNSYLVANIA: HANDLING HIGH-CONFLICT CUSTODY CASES. After noticing the publication data, click on Table of Contents, to see WHO has been promoting it, including our friends from Lackawanna County:

Conference publication
Document Type: Book
All Authors / Contributors: Pennsylvania Bar Institute.
OCLC Number: 72726153
Description: xvii, 328 p.: forms ; 28 cm.

Contents: High conflict couples: who are they and what do we do about them?** / Robin M. Deutsch

Guidelines for parenting coordination Association of Family and Conciliation Courts / Stephen J. Anderer, Jeanine Turgeon —
Websites on parenting coordination / submitted by Stephen J. Anderer
Other information of parents / submitted by Stephen J. Anderer —
Sample orders, agreement and related opinions – Pennsylvania / submitted by Stephen J. Anderer —
Stipulation and order for parent coordination / Katherine B.L. Platt*** —
Order: Cooperative Parenting Individual Program / Chester T. Harhut and Ann Marie Termini —
Stipulation and order for parent coordination / David N. Wecht* —
Sample orders and agreements – other jurisdiction / submitted by Stephen J. Anderer —
Statutes, rules and cases related to parent coordination – Pennsylvania / submitted by Stephen J. Anderer —
Statutes and rules on parent coordination – other jurisdictions / submitted by Stephen J. Anderer.

*David N. Wecht is no slaggard — he’s a Judge, he’s Yale (summa cum laude), and he’s Marine Corps. (see link). Neither is Steven J. Anderer (info not fresh, I studied earlier — but he’s also Yale, ABA, APA, PPA, and AFCC; Villanova University, Order of the Coif, publishing about High-Conflict parenting, and really “into” all this…..

**besides, who’s Robin M. Deutsch (look it up) — notice the “Us/Them” language — who THEY are and what do WE do about THEM?
***Random quotes:

“It is all about family,” said Common Pleas Court Judge Katherine B.L. Platt, a former child support master whose experience with the domestic relations system goes back more than 30 years, during a ceremony designating Monday as Child Support Awareness Day. The staff works to collect child support funds from parents and make sure they get to the proper place, whether it be in the county or dozens of states away.

There’s a whole business line in Certification in any (created) profession. PACE (A mental health organization) is now discounting “national certification in parenting coordinator” trainings — prices slashed by about half!

http://www.pacehelp.com/ (Scroll down….) the Academy…
Imagine of Parenting Coordination was abolished in other states too — they’d have to re-tool all the certification diplomas…..

LOOK at this 2012 “APA” Guidelines for Parent Coordination.” Look at it kind of closely — for example, on page 1, column 2 — they go immediately into quoting and referencing AFCC. By then they are already quoting AFCC personnel. At the bottom-right of page 1, there are acknowledgements to who helped put the guidelines together. This includes Robin Deutsch, Joan Kelly, and Marsha Kline Pruett (pretty well AFCC regulars). Check out the references at the back:

Reference#1 (of course they’re alphabetical, but keep reading); AFCC Task Force…. For those who follow these things, it’s fairly clear – -the references are almost exclusively from authorities favorable to the AFCC mainstream policy. From top to bottom. Hardly surprising, as few groups have done more to get psychologists lots of business than AFCC.

Oh well!

Written by Let's Get Honest

May 3, 2013 at 9:57 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Two points. Notice how the review protected the name of whichever trial judge got “rebuked” in the matter of A.H. vs. C.M. Nor was any link to the opinion (sealed family court matter? Not all records in family court are sealed; there are jurisdictions where one can actually read, with child’s name omitted; I’ve seen them in Lackawanna County). It’s relevant to the public if there is (or is not) any conflict of interest between said trial court judge, and the parent coordinator on the case. The judge is a public employee. Thee courts receive federal funding to operate as well as other funding.

    Footnote #2 below:
    notice how the word “high-conflict” is now part of the court’s language. WHich organization is restructuring the language of the courts in terms of relationships (behavioral science) versus other forms of law?

    Also, who is on that Supreme Court Domestic Relations Procedural Rules Committee — really matters. If I lived in Pennsylvania, I’d find out, start to understand any inter-relationships (i.e., potential profit [conflict of interest] motives which might unduly influence rule-setting habits. For example, see rules requiring the consumption (purchase) of “KidsFirst” psychoeducational classes, in several jurisdictions, on any custody motion or modiification. KidsFirsti markets AFCC publications and which promote the concept of Parental Alienation. Parent Education is a covered purpose under Access/Visitation funding, etc.

    2.  FN2. At least one Pennsylvania county, Erie, adopted local rules authorizing the appointment of parenting coordinators and delineating their roles in high-conflict custody disputes. See Erie County Local Rules 1940.10–1940.16. Likewise, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Domestic Relations Procedural Rules Committee is considering a proposed Rule of Civil Procedure and a model Order of Court that, if adopted, would unify parenting coordination procedures across the state. See [Anderer, supra].

    SUPREME COURT DOMESTIC RELATIONS PROCEDURE RULES COMMITTEE:
    http://www.pacourts.us/courts/supreme-court/committees/rules-committees/domestic-relations-procedural-rules-committee
    Amazing — two judges and the rest attorneys (plus two staff). Right now, only two men on the entire committee — and no member of the public, who are most definitely affected by the rules.

    Carol S. Mills McCarthy, Esq., Chair
    David L. Ladov, Esq., Vice Chair
    Vivian Appel, Esq., ex officio
    Maria P. Cognetti, Esq.
    Honorable Kathryn M. Hens-Greco
    Honorable Margaret Theresa Murphy
    David J. Slesnick, Esq.
    Ellen M. Sweeney, Esq.
    Honorable Carol L. Van Horn
    Ann G. Verber, Esq.

    STAFF:
    Patricia A. Miles, Suzanne M. Creavy

    SeeLookingItUp Page

    May 4, 2013 at 9:51 am


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martinplaut

Journalist specialising in the Horn of Africa and Southern Africa

Let's Get Honest! Blog: Absolutely Uncommon Analysis of Family & Conciliation Courts' Operations, Practices, & History

'A Different Kind of Attention Develops Sound Judgment' | 'Suppose I'm Right Here?...' (posted 3/23 & 3/5/2014). Over 680 posts, Public-Interest Investigative Blogging On These Matters Since 2009.

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