Affirming psychologists as parenting coordinators
by Legal & Regulatory Affairs Staff
February 14, 2011 — At the request of the Pennsylvania Psychological Association (PPA), the American Psychological Association (APA) submitted a comment letter (PDF, 225 KB) recommending that a proposed rule that would exclude psychologists from serving as Parenting Coordinators (PCs) in Pennsylvania be amended to allow qualified psychologists to serve in this capacity.
Recommendation 104, proposed by the Domestic Relations Committee of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, would allow only attorneys to serve as PCs, thus excluding psychologists and other mental health professionals. PPA responded by submitting a letter asking that the Supreme Court revise the proposed rule and asked APA to consider submitting comments as well.
In cases where parenting coordination might be needed, “health, mental health or educational issues are especially salient, [and] the knowledge base of a licensed mental health professional would be especially relevant,” said Samuel Knapp, EdD, director of professional affairs for PPA.
The comment letter from the APA, signed by Executive Director for Professional Practice Katherine C. Nordal, PhD, and the Practice Directorate’s Assistant Executive Director of Legal and Regulatory Affairs Shirley Ann Higuchi, JD, cited several reasons to support the recommendation that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court allow licensed psychologists to provide parenting coordination services:
Licensed psychologists are well qualified to serve as PCs. Psychologists have doctoral degrees and extensive clinical training, and those who practice as PCs have specialized expertise in relevant areas such as child development and family dynamics.
Psychologists serve as PCs in all states where such services are available. The APA Practice Directorate is not aware of any state where PC services are provided that prohibits psychologists from delivering these services.
The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) Guidelines for Parenting Coordination list licensed mental health professionals with additional specialized training as qualified to be PCs. AFCC, which comprises lawyers, judges, psychologists and other mental health professionals, is a leading organization in the field of parenting coordination.
APA is developing Guidelines for the Practice of Parenting Coordination. The guidelines, which should be released in 2011, are designed to promote best practices by psychologists providing parenting coordination services.
Many of the leading experts in the field of parenting coordination are psychologists. Psychologists were part of the Interdisciplinary Task Force that developed the AFCC Guidelines for Parenting Coordination, and psychologists have written numerous influential books and articles on parenting coordination.
According to Knapp, the AFCC, the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and numerous local Pennsylvania judges all support PPA’s position on the proposed rule.
Both APA and PPA are involved in ongoing efforts to promote access to parenting coordination and other psychological services.
“One of PPA’s goals is to ensure public access to psychological services,” said Knapp. Over the last several years, the state association has worked to improve the quality of services provided to families in court-decided parenting arrangements, and to educate judges, attorneys and psychologists on custody-related issues. Meanwhile, APA helped found the Office of the Parenting Coordinator in the District of Columbia Superior Court and continues its efforts to promote the field of parenting coordination and make it easier for psychologists to support children and families in disputed custody cases.
For more information on APA efforts related to parenting coordination, please visit the Practice Central website, or contact the Legislative & Legal Affairs department by e-mail or by phone at 202-336-5886.