Parenting Coordination

What is Parenting Coordination?
What do Parenting Coordinators Do?
What types of situations are best suited for Parenting Coordination?
What is involved in the referral and intake process?
What happens during the Parenting Coordination process?

What is Parenting Coordination?

Parenting Coordination is a specific dispute resolution service for high conflict parents. A Parenting Coordinator (the PC) is usually a mental health professional or lawyer who has experience with high conflict families, child development, family systems and patterns of domestic violence, as well as specific training in the unique dispute resolution process of Parenting Coordination.

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What do Parenting Coordinators Do?

The Parenting Coordinator ‘s role is to help the parties minimize parental conflict. PCs doArt - UN rights of children (640x489) this, primarily, in two ways. The first is an educative function– helping parents develop more effective problem-solving and communication skills, and educating them about relevant child development principles. Secondly, PCs assist  parents with the successful implementation of their Parenting Plan. If there is a dispute with respect to the Plan, 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 interests 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.

“For many co-parents receiving an order or developing a parenting plan may signal the beginning of a more peaceful and positive co-existence. With structure and a new understanding of co-parental expectations, parents can move forward and support their children. For other co-parents, this may not be the reality. Despite having an order or an agreement, issues and conflict may continue to occur. Even years after separation co-parents may still be plagued by poor communication and disagreement, and may not be able to fully disengage from their toxic relationship. The children of course are the ones in the middle, and their lives become a battleground. Buffering the children from this ongoing conflict and reducing the risk factors in their lives becomes the ultimate priority.

Whether one or both parents are contributing to the conflicted dynamic, Parenting Coordinators utilize specialized training to ensure orders and agreements are safely implemented and adhered to. Combining mediation and arbitration, as well as elements of coaching and education, Parenting Coordinators serve as the primary resource for co-parents wishing to finally see an end to their co-parent conflict. By serving as the functional link between dysfunctional co-parents, Parenting Coordination is the necessary intervention for high-conflict co-parents.” – Jared Norton (Parenting Coordinator at Riverdale Mediation Ltd.)

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What types of situations are best suited for Parenting Coordination?

Parenting Coordinators may be of use to parents where:

  1. other means of conflict resolution have been unsuccessful and parenting disagreements persist;
  2. parents have great difficulty communicating and sharing child-related information in an effective and child-focused manner;
  3. one parent or both parents have concerns about drugs, alcohol, child abuse or the stability of the other parent;
  4. there is a need for an interim arrangement for parents who are separated but living still in the same home;
  5. parents need help working out changes to their Parenting Plan as their children mature or circumstances change; or
  6. families have participated in a custody and access assessment and the Parenting Plan requires more specification or clarification.

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What is involved in the referral and intake process?

Either parent, their lawyers or another interested party may suggest the use of a PC. Often the parties will have already agreed to the use of a PC in their separation agreement. Both parents should read as much as they can about the Parenting Coordination process and the proposed PC. It is important that both parents read and understand the Parenting Coordination Agreement.

Once both parties have agreed on the person they wish to work with, they should each contact the PC by e-mail, sending her the completed PC intake form. The PC will then review the parties’ intake forms and obtain any other necessary information from them by telephone or from their lawyers during a conference call. The PC will need to review the parties’ Parenting Plan, as well as any relevant Court Orders and custody/access assessment reports.

The parents will then be asked by the PC to attend together at an information meeting with the Parenting Coordinator, where they will review and sign the PC Agreement and provide the required retainer.

It is generally recommended that the parties’ consent to the choice of PC and process be incorporated into a court order. Both parents are strongly encouraged to obtain independent legal advice before signing the PC Agreement.

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What happens during the Parenting Coordination process?

The PC will have full access to any reports, documents and other professionals who have been or continue to be involved with the family. The PC will meet with the parents, the children and anyone else she considers necessary in order for her to assist the family to the best of her ability.  When a dispute occurs that the parents are unable to resolve on their own, the PC will try to assist them by providing support, education and mediation. If the parents cannot reach an agreement with this help, the PC may then make a binding decision after taking into consideration information from the parents, professionals such as doctors, teachers, counsellors, etc., and, if necessary, the children.

The parents will continue to work with the PC for the agreed-upon term, usually 6-24 months. If both parents find the Parenting Coordinator unhelpful, they can agree to dismiss the PC. However, if only one parent is unhappy with the Parenting Coordinator, that parent cannot dismiss the PC prior to the expiry of the term. If the PC determines that she cannot effectively help the family, she may resign.