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Getting Michigan Lawyers Out of the Business of Social Work

By Jeanne E. Murphy posted 03-07-2022 09:22


For years, lawyers in Michigan with high conflict custody cases have had recourse to parenting coordinators. Under MCL 722.27c, the court may enter an order for a parenting coordinator for a specified term if the parties and the coordinator agree to the appointment and its scope. The parenting coordinator can help the parties resolve issues with transportation, childcare, discipline, extracurricular activities, school issues, among other things. This can free the parties’ lawyers up to work on the legal aspects of their client’s case, can reduce the parties’ legal bills, and hopefully help the parties learn the skills to resolve issues on their own.

 Such help may soon be available for elder law attorneys in Michigan. Various agencies are working to implement an eldercaring coordination program in this state. As parenting coordinators help to strengthen the child’s voice and needs in custody disputes, eldercaring coordinators work to focus a disputing family on the rights and wellbeing of the elder at the center of the case. The goal of the program is to work with families with challenging dynamics to teach them the tools to be able to resolve conflicts on their own, which will reduce the workload for the courts and will, perhaps, transform a family for the better.

 Linda Fieldstone, co-chair of the Association for Conflict Resolution Elder Justice Initiative on Eldercaring Coordination; Zena Zumeta, attorney/mediator, Mediation Training & Consultation Institute; and Antonia Harbin-Lamb, staff attorney for the Elder Law and Advocacy Center for Neighborhood Legal Services of Michigan and program manager and mediator for Great Lakes Legal Mediation Division, are recording an upcoming seminar for ICLE that will explain the details of the program, the role of the eldercaring coordinator, and inform us of the status of the program in Michigan.