Parenting Coordination

What is Parenting Coordination? Parenting Coordination is an alternative dispute resolution service for high conflict couples. A Parenting Coordinator (PC) is usually a mental health professional, although lawyers and mediators sometimes perform this function. Regardless of profession, the PC must have experience with and knowledge of separation/divorce, high conflict families, child development, conflict resolution skills, family systems, and domestic violence.

Parenting coordination is voluntary. Both parents need to agree to the process. Parenting coordinators will screen parties prior to beginning the process to identify any power imbalances or evidence of domestic violence that may exist between the parties.

What do Parenting Coordinator’s Do?

Parenting coordination is a process in which a neutral third party facilitates divorced or separated parents in understanding and implementing their parenting plan and/or enforcing their court order. PC’s employ a child-focused method of alternative dispute resolution and help parents make better decisions concerning the parenting of their child/ren. A parenting coordinator is a person who helps parents resolve day-to-day conflicts about their parenting arrangements or parenting orders. The PC acts as a coach/educator, who attempts to minimize parental conflict and enhance parallel parenting, cooperation, and mutual respect. This involves helping parents to develop more effective problem-solving skills and strategies to communicate better with each other. If there is a dispute and the parents cannot come to a mutual agreement, either on their own or with the assistance of the Parenting Coordinator, the PC makes final and binding decisions in keeping with the children’s best interests. This decision is based on information received from the parents, professionals such as doctors, teachers, therapists, etc., and, if needed, the child. The PC does not decide major things like decision-making responsibility or parenting time, other than those of a minor and temporary nature.

What types of situations are best suited for Parenting Coordination?

Parents may want to consider hiring a Parenting Coordinator when other avenues of problem and conflict resolution have been unsuccessful and when disagreements persist. It may be helpful for families where parents remain very angry at each other, and/or where the parents have difficulty sharing child related information in an effective and child focused manner. Also, the PC may be useful to families with young children when the Parenting Plans include schedules that change incrementally over time. Here, the PC assists the parents to implement the evolving parenting time schedule, making minor adjustments in accordance with the children’s best interests.

Many, although not all families, have already participated in a custody/access assessment. All families will have a Parenting Plan. Some of these plans, though, require more specification and clarification, which can be accomplished in Parenting Coordination.

What is involved in the referral and intake process?

The Parenting Coordinator accepts referrals after obtaining preliminary information from the parents and lawyers, if they are also involved. A review of the current Parenting Plan, Court Order and custody/access assessment report, if available, is required. The parents attend for an information meeting with the Parenting Coordinator during which the Parenting Coordination Retainer Agreement (subsequently referred to as Agreement) is reviewed. The parents will be provided with this Agreement prior to the conference call and/or information meeting. A retainer is accepted in advance for this preliminary work.

The parents must consent to participating in Parenting Coordination as well as consent to the specific Parenting Coordinator. It is strongly advised that the parents’ consent be formalized into a Court Order. The parents are strongly encouraged to obtain independent legal advice prior to signing the Agreement.

What happens during the Parenting Coordination process?

The PC will have full access to any reports and documentation that may be relevant, as well as to any other professionals, who have been and/or continue to be involved with the family. Meetings with the parents and sometimes the children in various combinations may be regular or on an add needed basis when a problem arises. When a dispute occurs that the parents are unable to resolve on their own, the Parenting Coordinator will attempt to assist them by providing support and education. PC’s help parents put their children’s interests first, help them to understand how conflict hurts children and teach them to communicate and cooperate so as to achieve the best outcome for their child/ren. If the parents cannot come to an agreement, the PC will make a binding decision relying on information from the parents, and where necessary the children and other professionals (e.g., doctors, teachers, therapists, etc.). Once the parents have agreed to a Parenting Coordinator, they decide on a length of time that they will involve the PC. The term is defined in the Agreement and/or Order. Terms typically range from 12 to 24 months. If both parents find that the Parenting Coordinator is unhelpful, they can agree to dismiss the PC. If the Parenting Coordinator comes to the conclusion that he/she cannot be helpful to the family, he/she can resign. However, if only one parent is unhappy with the Parenting Coordinator, that parent cannot dismiss the PC prior to the previously agreed to term.

Fees are paid by the parents in accordance with the Agreement. Typically, Parenting Coordinators request a retainer when they begin their work with a family.

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