More people are using parenting coordinators to work out holiday access

As I sit in my car, listening to “White Christmas”,  feeling warmth and joy, my mind wanders to those families engaged in intense conflict over who gets the kids for the holidays.

Kirk Makin’s story in the Globe (As Christmas nears, courtrooms fill with parents battling over kids) illustrates well what some families are going through.

Whether the battle is being driven by parents, grandparents or significant others, at the end of the day, it is the children whose holiday experience will be most harmed by such fighting.

Luckily, the vast majority of parents do not fight this issue out in court. Most are able to work it out themselves, through their lawyers or in mediation, or with the assistance of a parenting coordinator. But the rare few that end up in court use up a disproportionate amount of public, court resources.

Parenting coordinators (PCs) are often used by insightful separated couples who realize that they need help working through conflict without harming the children. A skilled parenting coordinator will work directly with the parents to help them minimize their conflict, by teaching and coaching them in better problem-solving and communication skills and relevant child development principles.

A PC can be particularly helpful during the holiday season.  Often times, the Parenting Plan already has a schedule laid out, but the details of the schedule are a not detailed, leaving room for interpretation and resulting in further conflict.  Also, as we all know… there are always requested exceptions to the rule like a vacation during the holiday season, or gatherings with distant relatives.

The PC can help parents resolve parenting disputes in a timely manner.  The PC will try to mediate an agreement between the parties. If that fails, the PC will gather all necessary information from the parents and from any other necessary sources and make a binding decision that is in the best interest of the child. It is important to note that PCs do not make decisions about legal custody, mobility or parenting schedules other than those of a minor or temporary nature such as the Christmas schedule.

Parenting coordination re-focuses parents on the needs of their children.  The hybrid nature of the role—helping to implement, modify, and mediate parenting plans and, when necessary, arbitrating a decision—requires both parties to have confidence in the skill, ability and integrity of their PC.

During an interview I once conducted with a child, the child had requested but one thing.  She said, “all if want is my parents to stop hating each other”. I hope during this festive time, parents are reminded that despite their differences, Christmas can be a time where children can truly feel the holiday spirit.

Christine Kim is an associate at Riverdale Mediation who specializes in parenting coordination and parenting mediation.