Divorce at Altitude: A Podcast on Colorado Family Law

Parenting Coordination and Decision-Making or PCDM with David Lamb | Episode 149

April 13, 2023 Ryan Kalamaya & Amy Goscha Season 1 Episode 149
Divorce at Altitude: A Podcast on Colorado Family Law
Parenting Coordination and Decision-Making or PCDM with David Lamb | Episode 149
Show Notes Transcript

David Lamb has focused the majority of his career on helping families and children through the legal process. During today’s conversation, he joins us to share his insights on the role of a PCDM or (Parenting Coordination Decision Making) in supporting fast problem resolution, reducing conflict, and more. Listening in, you’ll hear the best circumstances for soliciting the services of a PCDM and where it isn’t likely to benefit the process, as well as where the role of an attorney begins, where arbitration begins, and how David approaches the process according to his preferences and hard-earned expertise. 

Join us today for an informative conversation sure to guide your decision-making during the difficult process of establishing a positive co-parenting relationship with your former partner. 

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Where a parenting coordinator or decision-maker fits into the process.
  • How the role of a PCDM and a DM differs.
  • The importance of institutional knowledge for PCDMs. 
  • Why any PCDM should be able to quickly resolve certain issues in thirty minutes to an hour. 
  • Which cases are typically suited to the services of a PCDM.
  • How everyday disputes can lead to significant conflict between parents. 
  • How settling disputes fast benefits kids.
  • Cases where it is not beneficial to solicit the services of a PCDM.
  • What to think about with reference to the scope of authority of a PCDM.
  • Tailoring the PCDM agreement with maximum specificity.
  • The role of an attorney.
  • The value of speaking to the parties pre-engagement. 
  • David’s approach to speaking to the kids and why he doesn’t usually do so.
  • Why he always prioritizes having the ability to reallocate fees.
  • When it is appropriate to fine a parent.
  • Where the role of arbitration begins.

What is Divorce at Altitude?

Ryan Kalamaya and Amy Goscha provide tips and recommendations on issues related to divorce, separation, and co-parenting in Colorado. Ryan and Amy are the founding partners of an innovative and ambitious law firm, Kalamaya | Goscha, that pushes the boundaries to discover new frontiers in family law, personal injuries, and criminal defense in Colorado.

To subscribe to Divorce at Altitude, click here and select your favorite podcast player. To subscribe to Kalamaya | Goscha's YouTube channel where many of the episodes will be posted as videos, click here. If you have additional questions or would like to speak to one of our attorneys, give us a call at 970-429-5784 or email us at info@kalamaya.law.



Ryan Kalamaya (3s):
Hey Everyone. I'm Ryan Kalamaya

Amy Goscha (6s):
And. I'm Amy Goscha

Ryan Kalamaya (8s):
Welcome to the Divorce at Altitude. A Podcast on Colorado. Family Law.

Amy Goscha (13s):
Divorce is not easy. It really sucks. Trust me I. know Besides. being an experienced divorce attorney, I'm also a Divorce client.

Ryan Kalamaya (20s):
Whether You are someone considering divorce or a fellow family law attorney, listen in for weekly tips and insight into topics related to Divorce co-parenting and Separation in Colorado. Welcome Back to another episode of Divorce Altitude. This is Ryan Kalamaya. This week we're gonna talk about Parenting, and specifically with regards to Parenting coordinator and decision makers. And we're joined by David Lamb. I have had the privilege to work with David And. I have known him for a while, but for you, the listener, you should know that David has focused almost his entire career on helping families and children through the legal process.

Ryan Kalamaya (1m 6s):
We'll talk about that. But his professional background is that he is a family law attorney in Denver. He used to be a senior deputy district attorney specializing in child protection, domestic violence cases. He does also serve in limited circumstances as a PCDM and he's equally comfortable in the courtroom as well as the negotiating table. He went to the University of Oklahoma where he grew up, and you'll hear that a little bit in his accent, but he went to Chicago for law school at Northwestern University School of Law. David, before I go on about all the accolades and awards that you and your firm has won, welcome to the show.

David Lamb (1m 51s):
Thank you so much, Ryan. Thanks for having me.

Ryan Kalamaya (1m 53s):
Yeah. So can you tell our Listeners a little bit about you? The, I didn't cover maybe how you got into law and Family Law and, and a little bit more about your firm, So, that people have some context for our conversation about PCDMs.

David Lamb (2m 9s):
Sure. I got into law because I just wanted to be a trial lawyer. I wanted to be in the courtroom. I wanted to be in the courtroom talking to judges, dealing with witnesses and all of that. After I graduated from law school, I thought the way to do that was to go to a big firm and be a big firm litigator. So after I graduated from law school, I started my practice. I started practicing as an associate in a big firm in Chicago where I did commercial litigation, some product liability stuff. We defended the makers of cars and gun manufacturers against injury suits and things like that. And then I moved to Denver in 98 and did the same thing here for a couple of years.

David Lamb (2m 53s):
But what I found was that really wasn't the way to get into a courtroom. There are people in big firms who are, are litigation attorneys that are very experienced and maybe go to trial once every four or five years. And as the low man on the totem pole, it was gonna be very difficult for me to do what I really wanted to do, which was to be in the courtroom. So in 2001, I went to the Denver District Attorney's office and that's really where I got started in helping families and dealing with families and children directly. I very quickly was drawn to child abuse cases and domestic violence cases and child sex abuse cases because those cases seem to be places where the cases were very challenging and and very important.

David Lamb (3m 44s):
So I did that for seven years. I worked in the family violence unit in the Denver DA's office and we got a lot of exposure to social workers in those cases, social workers as witnesses, social workers, as people we had to go through to access witnesses and victims, social workers who could coordinate treatment and things of that nature. When I left the DA's office in 2008, it wasn't because I was, you know, I didn't like the work, but I was beginning to get a little bit burned out on seriousness of the cases, the trauma, some vicarious trauma that flows from some of those very serious cases.

David Lamb (4m 26s):
But I did not want to go back and just do big firm work again when I went back to private practice. So Family Law made a lot of sense for me. I had been sitting in rooms with family members dealing with family trauma. I'm in family conflict for almost a decade by that point. And Family Law made a lot of sense.

Ryan Kalamaya (4m 47s):
Yeah, we have a similar background as Listeners have heard. I've referenced, you know, my experience as a prosecutor, we actually overlapped, I was in law school and working at the Denver DA's office when you were there, but I was working with Helen Morgan and Michelle ACO on some prison gang cases, but I think when

David Lamb (5m 5s):
Two 11 Crew I don remember

Ryan Kalamaya (5m 6s):
That one? Yes indeed. And it was at that point that I decided that I wasn't gonna go to prison. And because I saw what that was like And, I, remember Helen saying to me, you just decided that. Right, Ryan. but you know, I think that when Listeners hear that it's important for people to put into context when they hear the social workers, Divorce lawyers, judges, for a lot of people it's the first time to their experience with the judicial system and there's different levers to pull different specialties. And, you know, for us talking about Parenting coordinators and decision makers, you know, I think maybe it's helpful for people to put that into context when they hear prosecutors.

Ryan Kalamaya (5m 47s):
And there can be, in the worst cases, which you've worked on and I've worked on, there can be prosecutors, social workers, county service people, PCDMs therapists. So where does a Parenting coordinator and then as part of that, a decision maker, where do they fit in David for people that are trying to figure out how to make sense of these various moving parts?

David Lamb (6m 14s):
Yeah, sure. So PCDM is one of the statutory creatures, as I call them, that the legislature has invented. A PCDM is really two things, A Parenting coordinator and a decision maker. And just the basics of it for your Listeners are that a Parenting coordinator decision maker. A PCDM is someone who can get involved with a family, typically a mother and a father, two parents or any number of iterations of that parties in a domestic relations case who is appointed by the court, typically by agreement of the parties.

David Lamb (6m 54s):
And we can talk about that, how we do that by agreement or by motion to the court. It's different for a PC and a DM, but a or gets involved and essentially is appointed to do those two roles as follows. A PC is called a Parenting coordinator, but you can also think about it as a Parenting coach or an ongoing mediator. On the PC side, the Parenting coordinator doesn't really have any authority other than to compel the people to meet with and talk to the Parenting coordinator. And the Parenting coordinator side is, Hey, why don't you do this a little differently? Or why don't you communicate with your former spouse or your co-parent in a different way?

David Lamb (7m 36s):
Or why don't you give on these exchange dates and maybe we can smooth things out on this side. Essentially trying to find common ground and to help the parties communicate. The DM is really very different. The statutory authority for that is very, very different. The parties have to agree to a decision maker. The court can't just on the court's own motion or the motion of one party appoint a DM, a decision maker. And that's because the decision maker is very different in that the decision maker does just that the decision maker has the authority to make binding decisions. And those binding decisions can be anything from what time a child is going to be picked up at the airport after a vacation on a particular day, on one time.

David Lamb (8m 25s):
Small issue like that, or can be a massively important thing such as where a child is going to go to school, who a child's doctor is going to be, whether a child is enrolled in therapy. So the PCDM fits into that area. And domestic relations law in a Title 14 case, not in the juvenile code, not in a criminal case, but just in a domestic relations case to try to keep parties out of court and to try to provide a bit of assistance and guidance to the parties.

Ryan Kalamaya (9m 5s):
Yeah, the statute for Parenting coordinators, it almost codifies in my mind, David, you know what good Divorce lawyers should be doing. And that is, it specifically says a Parenting coordinator should assist the parties in implementing structured guidelines for the Parenting plan, developing communication protocols, suggesting appropriate resources to help them get along. But in my mind, a Parenting coordinator is kind of like an on-call mediator and there's some institutional knowledge instead of the parties just going into mediation spending all day. And we'll talk about which cases or situations are best for, you know, PCDMs.

Ryan Kalamaya (9m 47s):
But I think just to kind of set the table a little bit, that you know, a Parenting coordinator really gains some institutional knowledge of the parties over time. And oftentimes they are just, the parties are dealing directly with the Parenting coordinator and instead of their attorneys being involved. And so it's tends to be a little bit more informal, but they kind of have that on call if it's like a Friday. And obviously as you know, sometimes you serve as a pcm, you don't like getting the Friday, hey, we have a dispute about the weekend. But you know, that ability to have that access as well as the institutional knowledge is a real benefit for the Parenting coordinator role.

David Lamb (10m 31s):
That's right. And just, I didn't say this before, but yes, you're right. I do act as a PCDM. I've been doing PCDM work for about six years now and it's about 20% of my practice. It could be more because I really think that there's a need out there for PCDMs and a lot of folks who used to do it are not doing it anymore because they've retired or other reasons. But that institutional knowledge is really important. If you compare it to say, a court decision, you know, a court hearing. A lot of times if you've got something that's important and needs to go to the JU to be decided because the parties simply can't agree on it, such as whether a child's gonna be enrolled in therapy, parties might want that resolved quickly.

David Lamb (11m 16s):
And if they don't have a PCDM or an arbitrator appointed in their case to take care of that, they're gonna have to go to court. You're not sure how long it's gonna take for you to get to court, you're not sure what judge is gonna hear it. And the judge is only gonna hear, maybe, might only hear two hours of testimony on it. And I only have a small window. What I've learned over my PCDM work is that within six or seven months, I am well on the way to, if something comes up, I can pretty much get a good sense of how this child, what's gonna be in the best interest of this child and what's gonna be best for the case moving forward. And I can make decisions pretty quickly.

David Lamb (11m 57s):
You talked about access and the interesting thing about PCDM, a decision maker's decisions just have to be in writing and signed by the DM. They ultimately have to be filed, but they don't have to be filed immediately to be affected. So if there's an argument that's happening, And, I, get an email at six o'clock on Friday evening. you know, for example, let's just say am Goscha, make up two people, Joe and Mary Joe emails me and says, Mary won't do the Parenting exchange until 10 tomorrow, but I'm supposed to have the kids at eight so we can make it over to my mom's house. I probably will already know what the rules say, what the orders say, and have a good idea of what's going on here.

David Lamb (12m 41s):
And, I can step away from whatever I'm doing, take the time that I need. Sometimes it might be very quick and issue a written and electronically signed decision just by email so I can resolve those things. Any PCDM can resolve those things I think well and accurately and effectively inside thirty minutes to an hour. And sometimes when disputes arise,

Ryan Kalamaya (13m 3s):
And, you know, for Listeners, we had a previous episode with Katie Lum, who is now a court of appeals judge, and she explained about decision making with vaccines and education, and this is more of an expansion on that previous topic, but if Listeners want to, you know, listen in on that, I think it's relevant episodes. But David, what from your perspective, in the 80% of the cases where you are representing someone in a Divorce, what are the cases that you think are typically good ones for a PCDM? And we'll talk maybe a little bit about the dynamic between the PC and DM component.

Ryan Kalamaya (13m 43s):
Like there are some PCMs, you said that I mean there are limited options out there, but most of 'em, at least in my experience, will only do PC Parenting Coordination if they have the DM. Yeah. you know, role. And you said they have to agree. So what are the situations where you and the other attorney, David, you And, I, have a case, And, you know, kids are involved and we both try to advocate for our clients to agree for the DM component, a PCDM. And what are the cases where you And I will say, don don't think this is a really good engagement for a PCDM.

David Lamb (14m 18s):
Yeah, I think that I would start with saying the best case for a PCDM And I have, I'm lucky enough to have three or four of these right now where I'm the court appointed PCDM. The cases that are best for a PCDM are where you have high functioning, highly effective parents who on their own are just that highly effective, skilled caregivers and are thoughtful individuals, but for whatever reason, they just cannot agree on things medium, small and large. They just cannot. And there are a lot of of reasons why that is. People who've spent 10 years being married to one another have a lot of baggage for better or worse, and sometimes it's just not possible to get that baggage out of the way for them to think clearly on child related issues.

David Lamb (15m 6s):
That's the best situation because if you've got two highly functioning, highly effective people who are thoughtful, who you can build a rapport with, they're more likely to take the direction from you as a PC or accept your decisions as a DM than someone who say is not particularly highly functioning. We'll talk about that in just a second. But those people who are thoughtful and are good at what they do when they parent their children, those are the best cases. Sometimes there's trauma in a relationship. If there's been domestic violence, that can be a really good case where PCDM is really helpful in Colorado one party committing domestic violence against the other parent doesn't automatically mean that the perpetrator of domestic violence will not have shared decision making over major decisions.

David Lamb (15m 60s):
It's still in the court's discretion. The court can find that even though there was domestic violence, I'm still going to find that it's in the best interest of the children to allocate shared decision making. Now in that case, whether it be the trauma that the victim has suffered or maybe there are legal impediments to communications, a decision maker can be really effective and frankly very well needed. I think that in the end, the best cases are those cases where parties are likely to respond well to the Parenting coordinator side of things where they're going to listen to this person and not just automatically say, Hmm, no, this person doesn't know me, this person is just part of the judicial system that I don't trust, or whatever.

David Lamb (16m 45s):
Those are good cases. Those are really kind of the highly functioning parents are the ones who are the best. I think that another type of case that's really tailor made for a PCDM are cases where, you know, at the time of the Divorce or the litigation or whatever, that in about two years there's gonna be an issue. This parent's gonna want this high school and this parent's gonna want that high school. When you can see those things coming down the pike. I think those are excellent cases, inappropriate cases for PCDM. Another good case for PCDM is any case where you think the parties are just gonna get hung up on small things, really small things like exchange times or whatever, be it financial matters like disclosure, reassessing child support and those sorts of things.

David Lamb (17m 39s):
I think that when you know that the parties are not just big things, but the parties are gonna get really hung up on these granular issues, those are good cases for a PCDM

Ryan Kalamaya (17m 49s):
From my perspective, in addition to what you just mentioned, which I totally agree with the cases where there's a relocation where a parent lives in a different location because the travel to and from can often result in these last minute issues. There could be, you know, I think the risk of alienation and that's a disputed or loaded term, but you know, I've certainly, in terms of dealing my own practice, I've seen the PCDMs be helpful on those issues. And if there's work travel, you know, where a parent they just by, they have to have some flexibility where they might say, we agree to an equal Parenting time or a 60 40 Parenting time and we're gonna reassess on a quarterly basis or a monthly basis to figure out the schedule because you know, someone could be like a nurse where their schedule just changes and you really have to kind of work around it, right.

Ryan Kalamaya (18m 43s):
Those cases I think. But yeah, the school issue I mean absolutely. Like hearing in Aspen, we have Aspen Country Day, my wife works there, it goes up into eighth grade and then some kids go to boarding school, some kids go to Aspen High School. But when you have those kind of looming disputes, the other issue is extracurriculars when one parent might be I mean as Listeners know, I love to ski And, you know, if there one parent is really into a particular sport, you know, you're an avid cyclist. I played baseball in college when parents kind of project or are really invested in those extracurriculars and as a lawyer you see those potential disputes where one parent might say, I'm not into this sport or school as much.

Ryan Kalamaya (19m 31s):
I think that those cases are appropriate for a PCDM.

David Lamb (19m 36s):
Yeah, I think that is exactly right. That's a really good point. Some parents are rah rah every day, gotta be doing something, squeezing your homework in a small amount of time and you're gonna do this sport and you're gonna do dance and you're gonna do debate and all that. Other parents just have a different approach and man, we need to build in some space for these kids. I'm certainly on the, let's build in some space for kids to let them fill that up. But those disputes can lead to so many fundamental, some serious disputes and arguments between the parents about, you know, you must not care about your son because you don't want to have him in this baseball camp.

David Lamb (20m 17s):
You don't want him to succeed. And that's not typically the case. It's just a different approach to these things. And those disputes, the longer they linger, can spill over to the kids where a child who's maybe 14 who maybe doesn't really wanna be in swimming again this year or doesn't wanna move to the next level of competitive soccer and let's say mom is really pushing that, pushing that, pushing that that can result in some serious discord between the parents and the child. When both parents are really trying to do what they want to do best. If you can shorten the time that those disputes linger and get on a track that achieves some sort of balance between what the parents see, it's better for the kids and a piece of answer way to resolve that.

Ryan Kalamaya (21m 5s):
Yeah. And we've talked as far about all the virtues of a pcm, where are the situations that aren't a good fit for a PCDM or or reasons why, you know, parties, you know, we have these hypothe, hypothetical Divorce clients, Eric and Melanie Wolf. Why would Eric and Melanie Wolf, why would they not use a PCDM?

David Lamb (21m 24s):
Good question. I would say overall, I would say you should always have a reason for a PCDM I know some, not many, but I've had a couple of practitioners that I've crossed paths with say, you know what, I always do a PCDM because we don't want to be negotiating or doing major decisions in the court setting. So I just put PCDM in my standard agreement language, my standard Parenting plan, And I. Don't think I think that's a bad deal. I think that's a mistake. I think you always need to have some reason and some thought to it. So first answer to your question is always have a reason because there can be some bad things about a PCDM.

David Lamb (22m 4s):
I think one thing that is an an odd phenomenon for me that I've seen is that in some cases, and it's hard to know which cases really are gonna be this, but sometimes I think you can see it, sometimes having a PCDM actually can increase the level of disputes and increase the level of spending time and energy and money and emotional exertion on co-parenting arguments. Because what does a PCDM do? If you've got a dispute and you don't have a PCDM, you really gotta go to your lawyer or you gotta go to the court or both and spend all this money and time and it's gonna take a while for me to get in with my lawyer.

David Lamb (22m 47s):
But the good thing about a PCDM is it gives you access to a forum right here. Well the bad thing in some cases can be that it gives you this forum for your dispute, right? It so it can increase the chances that people will not try to resolve it between themselves and just throw it to a PCDM And I think you can sometimes forecast that, how much are these parties? One or both of them driven by really petty concerns. We all have seen clients that do that. I've had clients that will even admit that to me and admit that to themselves. But I guess it doesn't necessarily have to be a petty concern, but how much do they have to win if they see the PCDM as a place where they can just get the emotional gratification of notching a victory on the other side.

David Lamb (23m 42s):
you know, that might not be a great case for a PCDM and maybe you need to leave the PCDM out. So these parties can force themselves to by circumstance and experience just to smooth out the edges and cooperate on their own. But I have seen that sometimes. So if you're a practitioner and you're listening to this and you think, well that kind of describes a couple of cases I have now you might think about my other PCDM is a good fit for that. Another case where a PCDM might not be of assistance and could be harmful is if you know for a fact that one or both of the parties is never gonna accept the PCDMs outcome.

David Lamb (24m 26s):
If they're always gonna challenge the PCDM in court, they're always going to take, because for your Listeners, the decisions of a decision maker are subject to an appeal. You have a matter of weeks to file a challenge to the district court to say, Hey, the decision maker got this wrong. And that can add a layer of litigation. So you have to be, I think, thoughtful about whether or not these parties or this case is the case that adding a PCDM will just add a new layer of litigation.

Ryan Kalamaya (25m 1s):
This episode is brought to you by our law firm, Kalamaya Goscha Amy And I describe our law firm as an innovative and ambitious trial team that pushes the boundaries to discover new frontiers in family law, personal injuries in criminal defense in Colorado. We currently have offices in Aspen, Glenwood Springs, Edwards, Denver, and Boulder. If you wanna find out more, visit our website Kalamaya dot law now back to the show. Yeah, absolutely. I mean when you're talking about, you know, the term narcissist is really bandied about, but like Listeners I mean that it does exist. Those cases, you know, have, when you mentioned domestic violence, you know a hundred percent agree where, you know that is a great situation for PCDMs because it creates that buffer between, you know, people that maybe kind of smooths out the power dynamics that would otherwise exist.

Ryan Kalamaya (25m 58s):
But when you add the litigation component, I mean the, the flip side is that, you know, the statute fourteen, ten one, twenty eight 0.3 does have, you know, if if someone appeals and loses then they, you know, have to pay the fees, which can be a real deterrent. I've certainly had that discussion recently with some clients that were unhappy not with anything that you have ever done, but with another PCDM And, you know, they have at this point, they've rejected, they don't feel like a or is a fair process. And so let's kind of segue into some of the nuts and bolts about the scope of authority and some of the, you know, you, you don't have a PCDM for the entirety of your life and the statute contemplates a time restriction.

Ryan Kalamaya (26m 44s):
So can you maybe talk David about the scope of authority, you know, in terms of the appointment and especially I think on the, the DM side, but there's this novelty or nuance with arbitration and what can a PCDM do? So can you for Listeners that don't understand, you know what I'm referencing, what in terms of the scope of authority should people be thinking about?

David Lamb (27m 9s):
Yeah, it's, we talked about the legislature, the legislatures, the body that gave us this statutory creature and god bless 'em sometimes they don't exactly give us quite everything we need. And this is a good example of that. I'm going to read, if I may, the brief passage in the statute that describes what a PCDM can do by statute. So it says by written consent of both parties, the court may appoint a qualified domestic relations decision maker and grant to the decision maker binding authority to resolve disputes between the parties as to implementation or clarification of existing orders including but not limited to disputes concerning Parenting time specific disputed parental decisions and child support.

David Lamb (27m 58s):
Then it continues, a decision maker shall have the authority to make binding determinations to implement or clarify the provisions of a preexisting court order in a manner that is consistent with the substantive intent of the court order. So, let me break that down. The overall observation there is what, what can a PCDM do because it uses these terms like including but not limited to the court may grant authority to blah blah blah blah blah. So if you just say we're getting a PCDM and you don't tailor the authority of that PCDM, what you're gonna be stuck with is that language, right, including but not limited to, well did I give the PCDM authority over child support?

David Lamb (28m 43s):
I don't know. Well I didn't intend to do that. So I think as practitioners we need to be, when I do a PCDM agreement, I am always very specific. I try to be as specific as I can. And, I even include, shall not have the PCDM, shall not have authority to resolve anything but these things. So an example would be we are pointing the P C D, the DM according to that statute section 1 28 0.3. And the DM shall have the following authority and only the following authority resolve disputes regarding major decisions for the children, resolve issues about exchange times in the implementation of the Parenting time schedule and to determine whether the children will engage in, participate in particular extracurricular activities and determine how it's paid.

David Lamb (29m 39s):
That's a really good example of a PCDM listing. And I will often say if we don't want the DM to have authority to change Parenting time, well then I you kind of wanna say that. So I'll often say shall not be authorized to change Parenting time and shall have no other authority other than that as a above it gives better guidance to the DM and it sets the expectations for the parties and it prevents arguments over well to the DM cuz maybe you spend three months having the DM make a decision and then the court decides DM didn't really have authority over that. So I think you need to tailor the decision making authority for sure.

David Lamb (30m 21s):
I wanna hover for a moment on one specific issue. If there's no other Tailoring that's done, if the parties are oftentimes people get into mediation or practitioners get into their negotiations and they're like, these parties are never gonna be able to make major decisions together and that's why they get a DM is to just for the purpose of resolving major decisions, well then say that, say we are only having the DM here to resolve major decisions and nothing else, but if that is going to be included in the list specifically say that the DM shall be given major decision rate, the ability to resolve disputes over major decisions.

David Lamb (31m 6s):
Cuz I've had cases where, you know, referring to this language, well we never specifically gave you the authority, you only have the authority to implement or clarify the provisions of a court order. So in certain cases where the parties were not clear about whether I had major decision making, I've been put in a position of saying, you know what one of the court orders is that you have joint decision making, I've gotta implement that now and I've gotta implement joint decision making by breaking a tie. That's not great ground to be making a decision on. So just say it, say it in your order. Another nut and bolt thing as the PCDM, I like to see the order of my appointment before it goes to the court for a couple of reasons.

David Lamb (31m 53s):
One, so I can say, hmm, this doesn't make any sense to me, don don't know what this is gonna say or to say you might want to give me additional authority over this as well or this, if this is what you're intending then am Goscha need the ability to, so I always like to see the order before it goes.

Ryan Kalamaya (32m 11s):
Yeah, And I think it's incumbent on, you know, practitioners to have that conversation with their clients because when you reach an agreement for a PCDM, they could Eric and Melanie could disagree about the sky, you know, being blue, which often is the case and that's one of the reasons that we have a PCDM. But they do agree at that point to get a PCDM cuz they say, you know what, we're not gonna agree on the color of the sky in the future. But they, at that point I think it's, it's helpful to have the conversation with the other attorney and a or because everyone at that point is on the same page and you want to at least make sure, but I've learned through experience I mean when I started doing, you know, these PCDMs as a lawyer, I would just take the judicial form and it was available on the website, just put in the person's name and then what happens, and you've seen this David, is when someone becomes unhappy or there's a disagreement that language and it really gets into this kind of overall like more meta discussion of strict constructionists like originalists versus you know, the progressive like interpretation.

Ryan Kalamaya (33m 23s):
Well it says equal Parenting time, And I can, you know, do this or hey it only is contained in the four corners of a Parenting plan and you And I both know no Parenting plan can contemplate for example. Yeah covid and what happened with Parenting during Covid, there was no Parenting plan in advance that said, well if there's a global pandemic you gotta decide to do this when one parent doesn't believe in vaccines and the other doesn't or one parent gets sick and the other doesn't. So it's really having those conversations and I've learned over time where I'll put in the order that a or has the ability to deal with vacations or SW swapping weekends but does not have the ability to decide, for example, relocation because we decide that that needs to be dealt with at the district court.

Ryan Kalamaya (34m 14s):
So I think people when they hear that they really need to hold their attorneys accountable or their attorneys really need to think about that, you know, ahead of time and have that conversation. So you know, you mentioned having a conversation with a or do you think that that's helpful or you know in advance reaching out to someone and saying hey you know, can we talk about this engagement and if so, what does that conversation look like? David?

David Lamb (34m 40s):
Yeah, And I would imagine you're asking, you mean because I get calls from attorneys all the time or calls or emails from attorneys, but I think you're asking about should the PCDM have a conversation with one or both of the parties before the engagement I

Ryan Kalamaya (34m 55s):
Or with the attorney I mean we're I'm, you know, I have advocacy built into my dna so if am Goscha call you for a PCDM, I, you know, it's always the kind of advocacy. So at what point, you know, what should attorneys be mindful of in reaching out to PCDMs and do you think it's helpful to have a conversation with the parties before you start working with them or do you think that that should be expected by Eric and Melanie Wolf?

David Lamb (35m 21s):
Yeah, you know it's on the attorney side. If an attorney reaches out to me and just, it's been pretty rare that an attorney calling me has said, Hey the other side's a total nut job and we really need somebody because my client's perfect. That's not, not really how those conversations go. And if, if an attorney called me and said that, I'd be like Hmm, okay well am Goscha continue to reserve judgment until I actually have my own interactions with these folks. I think that attorneys are probably wise, it's the same thing when I call A C F I, I'm not gonna advocate here but we really need a C F I with experience in this area, in this area and you as the CFI or potential cfi, if you want more information you can ask me but these are the issues in the case and my client's concerns are a B agency and this is all pre-engagement on the issue of talking to the parties pre-engagement.

David Lamb (36m 12s):
I think it can be really helpful. I think it can be super helpful And, I'm always willing to do that And, I don't charge for it, give somebody 20, 30 minutes to talk to me, sort of size me up as much as they can on a Zoom call or typically a Zoom call or a phone call. And I always, I think it's very helpful to make sure that both parties have the equal authority and ability to do that if you want to and put that in writing. Hey am Goscha have this conversation with this person, do you want to have a similar conversation before I get? And a lot of people are like, no, you know, my attorney says that you'll do a good job so I trust you. But the big reason I think it's important to have that pre engagement discussion is because you're already starting to build a rapport and understand somebody's needs and understand 'em as a person.

David Lamb (37m 2s):
How do they communicate? Do they communicate in a very focused way? Do they communicate in a really broad way? Do they communicate effectively at all? Do they rely on emails? Is this person going to be able to, you know, remember what we're talking about once we get into the case? But also you've already, if you're already building a rapport, that's great because it makes it easier. The hard work of being a decision maker involves doing something that one person's probably gonna be disappointed with. And if I've already had some time to build that rapport, then as soon as I make that first decision, it's probably gonna be easier for them to understand how and why I got there and not just think, man, this guy comes walking in and he just thinks he knows everything and he decides this issue and god damn it, this is a raw deal.

David Lamb (37m 51s):
I wish I didn't have this PCDM. I think that's less likely to happen if you've had at least a sum conversation pre-engagement.

Ryan Kalamaya (37m 59s):
What about the kids, David? Do you think it's helpful or expected? Eric and Melanie Wolf, they have kids. Do you think that a PCDM should be meeting and talking with the kids in advance? I mean there's references in the statute to, you know, a cfi you know, serving in the same role as as a PCDM. So can you talk to me a little bit about meeting with the kids?

David Lamb (38m 21s):
Yeah, you'll probably get different OPINIONS on this issue from different PCDMs. My personal approach is And I feel pretty strongly about this is that I do not speak to the the kids unless I have an extremely compelling reason to do so. And I will tell you so far in the p all the PCDM work I've done over the years, I've never spoken to a child, well I've never spoken to a minor child in one of my PCDM cases. So why is that? I think that there are several reasons why it can be more likely to be bad than good to speak to the kids.

David Lamb (39m 5s):
First of all, I'm a lawyer, I'm not a mental health professional. Secondly, by the time a case gets to needing a PCDM, there's a really good chance that the kids have been involved in therapy, reunification therapy, family therapy, school counselor who knows And I really am not a fan of over professionalizing a kid, giving a child yet another relationship, professional relationship that they may feel like that they have to either perform for or at least behave for And, you know, take additional time out of their life to deal with. Another reason is that, you know, it can put, I think any child if they know who you are and what you're doing, what your role is that am Goscha make a decision where you, where you're on school or whether you, you know, go to the family reunion in Durango with your mom.

David Lamb (40m 1s):
I think it will even give the most level-headed kids and the healthiest, emotionally healthiest kids a lot of stress to be put in the position of giving input and making a decision that they know one of their parents is not gonna be happy with And I think that's a burden that needs to fall on the DM and the DM alone and not be on increase the stress of the child. I can imagine, I can imagine a case where I would speak with the child but it'd have to be probably, for example, say a teenager who maybe is fairly mature. This is just one example and where there's not a significant amount of parental alienation evidence in the case and where I think both parents are likely to be able to live with whatever input the child gives and whatever decision I make because then I can empower the child and do it in a way that's maybe emotionally healthy and not gonna cause damage or trauma between him or her and his or her parents.

Ryan Kalamaya (41m 5s):
Yeah, I've seen situations where both parents, they agree to follow the children's wishes. I kind of joke a lot of times with parents is that, you know, whatever a teenager and and David I know you have teenagers, you know, whatever a teenager wants, maybe you should probably do the opposite of, but you know the, yeah parents will say, listen, we haven't talked to them, they've both kind of been respectful to him or her the child. But it could be for school for example, I mean it's hard to imagine that the parents actually don't talk to 'em but they do have a buy-in that the child's wishes they'll follow the child's wishes. But yeah, I I know judges that share your sentiment that they don't want to, you know, cuz there is a mechanism for children to be interviewed by a court and the same thing with, you know, PCDM.

Ryan Kalamaya (41m 52s):
But to kind of wrap things up, David, there's a couple other loose ends that we have referenced in in terms of what authority or PCDM in terms of, you know, fees and money and some other kind of, you know, duration. So you mentioned about the risk of of litigation or one party just continually going to a PCDM, And I think people can, you know, relate to that. you know, when people can text back and forth, it's more likely that they get into disputes because it's just so easy to do it. That's why these Parenting communication apps, they make it harder and if they, you know, what you were saying is the exchange, if someone's 10 minutes late then they can go to a, or if someone's 10 minutes late to a Parenting exchange and they call me, I'll tell them, listen, you're gonna be 10 minutes late, you know, sometime in the future just, you know, get over it.

Ryan Kalamaya (42m 42s):
But if a parent, you know, Eric Wolf continually comes to you David on some petty petty issues over and over, is there a remedy for that? And if so, what is it?

David Lamb (42m 55s):
Yeah, I think there are two ways. One's common and one's not so common that those things can be dealt with. And this goes back to Tailoring, the authority of the PCDM. And the first issue is whether or not the PCDM can reallocate bees. So if Eric Wolf, our hypothetical friend Eric Wolf is constantly coming to a or and saying decide this or decide this or do this for me or do this for me and it just doesn't have any basis and it's either unreasonable because it's just expanding the proceedings and the costs unreasonably on its own or it's specifically done to harass the other side.

David Lamb (43m 35s):
I think the DM always needs to have the authority to reallocate the fees. And so to practitioners who may be listening, I always want to have the ability to reallocate fees to curb that kind of behavior. And I've had to use it many, many times. Frankly, And I wouldn't say many, many, I'd say I've had to do it several times and it's been effective, it's very effective. Oh I even had a case where you have so abused this process, you're gonna pay $2,500 for yourself and $2,500 for the other side and that's gonna sit here. And that's what we're gonna pull from for now. It's not only reallocating past fees but putting this person on notice that future fees are likely to be sitting there that are just gonna be taken out of your pocket alone.

David Lamb (44m 24s):
And that, that actually was challenged in the district court and the district court completely agreed with me saying reallocating fees includes that authority. The second way I've seen people try to curb that is through a fine process, fine f i n e, giving the Parenting coordinator decision maker the ability to find a parent. And in certain cases that is entirely appropriate, entirely appropriate to give the Parenting coordinator, particularly parents of means the ability to find a parent for acting in ways that may not just abuse the process but may be outside the PCDM process.

David Lamb (45m 7s):
Just acting in ways that are contrary to the interests of the children. But what I have found in the cases where I've had fine authority that it is quite common that a parent may deserve a fine, may deserve a $5,000 fine and may have done everything you can imagine to deserve this knowingly and just thumbing that knows that the orders and all those things. But it could be that imposing that fine is not ultimately gonna be in the child's best interests because maybe that fine knowledge of that fine somehow worse its way around to a child.

David Lamb (45m 48s):
Maybe knowledge of that fine ends up being a reason why the child who may be suffering alienation or things of that nature, the knowledge of that fine gets manipulated in a way that increases the distance between and the conflict between the child in the other parent and a PCDM or a judge for all that matter can say all day long you shall not tell the kids about this fine doesn't mean another family member can't, doesn't mean that that that knowledge isn't gonna make it to that child in another way or frankly from the parent. And so at the end of the day you may issue a fine that's righteous but ultimately increases the discord and problems for a child.

David Lamb (46m 33s):
So I'm a big fan of reallocating fees. I think that's a very important, I always want to have that authority, not so big a fan of fines.

Ryan Kalamaya (46m 42s):
Yeah, and for Listeners to understand what you are referencing David, is that, you know, so the PCDM, neither can in arbitrator, which we can kind of finish up with in terms of the dynamic of arbitration, but they can't hold parties in contempt and there could be conduct in a Parenting plan that says you can't talk to the children about something or you can't do something, you know, send communications that are harassing or whatever And, you know that I've tried it before where you go to court and you say these text messages are harassing or they're communicating with the new girlfriend because they're really upset about this and technically it's a violation of the Parenting plan, but judges are, they just have very little patience for it.

Ryan Kalamaya (47m 28s):
They don't wanna deal with it and the lack of institutional knowledge. So oftentimes with people cuz they know that they're not gonna go to jail, the ability to find is kind of a deterrent for some of these, you know, issues. And it can happen like immediately So that at least is the rationale. you know, I, I hear you in terms of the debate between the efficacy, but you know, the final thing I wanted to kind of have a conversation about David is, is arbitration. So you mentioned about the kind of scope and authority. you know, there is, you know, arbitration actually had an arbitration hearing yesterday And, you know, recorded of really short video about how efficient it was because the preparation, both parties agreed to just make offers of proof.

Ryan Kalamaya (48m 14s):
But if, if it's like a relocation or there's gonna be a modification of Parenting time and it's going to be bigger than just your decision making role parties can agree to have the or act as a arbitrator in certain circumstances. So can you maybe talk about that option as well for people in circumstances they extend beyond even a PCDM or that we can kind of craft that for parents?

David Lamb (48m 42s):
Yeah, I mean I, I do think there's a Parenting specific arbitration statute that's one fourteen ten one twenty eight 0.5, which I think is a great statute. There's also simply, you know, standard Colorado has an arbitration act that you can use to resolve disputes. But focusing our attention here on the Parenting arbitrator, I think of the arbitrator as well. A lot of times if I just have a one-off decision, I don't need a Parenting coordinator, I don't need an ongoing decision maker, I don't need this, I can just appoint an arbitrator to, to decide this one issue. It's a very cost effective way to resolve issues.

David Lamb (49m 23s):
You don't have to sort of, if you hire a PCDM then there's a little bit more to the process and there's a lot more involved in sort of opening the case, certain disclosures that the PCDM has to make. If you hire an arbitrator they can jump right in and just do this so, and make this decision. And the arbitrator has just like a DM has really full authority over the process. This is how much attention I think we really need on this. So we're all gonna get on the phone or we're all gonna get on Zoom and am Goscha. Take 30 minutes of testimony from each person, hear your comments and am Goscha make a decision as an arbitrator. I think if you have a PCDM with arbitration authority that's fine, but I personally think that if you're gonna have a PCDM, having the decision maker simply have the authority to make binding decisions in the role as a DM rather than giving the DM arbitration authority makes more sense.

Ryan Kalamaya (50m 19s):
Yeah, And, I've seen parents, you know, I had some parents in Boulder that they disagreed on where they were gonna go to school, they went to a person on arbitration, they both went in without attorneys, had Google maps about the traffic and how long it was gonna take. Yeah. And the school schedules and it was really informal. They got a decision very quickly cuz it was in late July. They needed to make a decision and they went to an arbitrator. But I do think that when you kind of have a, or and both parents I think have to have the buy-in if there's a dispute for example on, you know, something that is beyond the Parenting plan, for example, relocation, that they are, there is something to be said for going in that informal process.

Ryan Kalamaya (51m 2s):
And so, you know, I just, I want to at least discuss that as an option. But David, thank you so much for your time. I think Listeners can really appreciate the thought that you bring as a lawyer as well as you know, a PCDM. So for those Listeners that want to find out more about you, David, how's the best way that they find out in terms of your website and email address where we'll have links in the show notes, but how's the best way that they can reach out to you, David, if they wanna learn more?

David Lamb (51m 31s):
Yeah, I would just encourage Listeners if they have any questions about this or any other topics just to check out our website. My law firm is sure, Putman Aikens Lamb, and we're in Denver and our website is www dot s as in Sam, P as in Paul, a l Family Law dot com. Pretty easy to find via the Googles, but you can contact us through the contact information on that website.

Ryan Kalamaya (51m 57s):
David and partners, they have excellent reputation. As I mentioned at the intro, you know, 52 80 and best lawyers in America. They've won pretty much every Award. Fantastic. you know, Divorce and Family Law firm. But David, thank you again for the time and until next time, thank you for listening to Divorce at Altitude.

David Lamb (52m 17s):
Thanks for having me. Ryan.

Ryan Kalamaya (52m 18s):
Hey, Everyone, this is Ryan again. Thank you for joining us on Divorce at Altitude. If you found our tips, insight, or discussion helpful, please tell a friend about this podcast. For show notes, additional resources or links mentioned on today's episode, visit Divorce at Altitude dot com. Follow us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen in. Many of our episodes are also posted on YouTube. You can also find Amy and me at Kalamaya.law or 970-315-2365. That's K A L A M A Y A.law.