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Parenting Coordination

Parenting Coordination (PC) is a service for parents who have ongoing disputes about a custody order, parenting plan or separation agreement and who do not want to go to court to resolve those disputes.

PC is designed for parents who cannot agree on day to day matters affecting their children. 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 process of Parenting Coordination.

The goal of the PC is to help parties resolve disputes in a way that minimizes the conflict between them and reduces the impact of that conflict on their children. It is intended to help such parents improve their communication, learn effective negotiation strategies, and develop skills to reduce conflict. When the PC cannot assist the parents to reach agreements, the PC is authorized to make decisions for them.

All PCs in Ontario enter into private contracts with the parents. Such contracts are for at least 18 month periods and sometimes longer.


What do Parenting Coordinators Do?

Parenting Coordinators provide two key functions.

The first is an educative role– 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.

When Would Parents Need a Parenting Coordinator?

For many parents, obtaining an order or parenting plan signals 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 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 such 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.

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.”

What types of disputes might benefit from Parenting Coordination?

Parenting Coordinators may be of use to parents who do not want to use the courts and 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, new partners or the stability of the other parent;
  4. parents need help working out changes to their Parenting Plan as their children mature or circumstances change;
  5. Parents disagree on the interpretation of their custody order or Parenting Plan;

families have participated in a custody and access assessment and the Parenting Plan requires more specification or clarification.

What is involved in the referral and intake process?

Many separation agreements include a provision for the future use of a PC. However, before either parent can enforce such a clause, they both must obtain independent legal advice, be screened for suitability by the PC, and sign a PC Agreement.

Both parents should, therefore, read as much as they can about Parenting Coordination, the proposed PC and the terms of the PC Agreement before deciding to proceed. The PC process is a substantial commitment with significant implications for parents and children alike. Informed consent is critical.

Once both parties have agreed on their PC, they will each need to complete a confidential PC intake form.

Each parent will then meet separately and confidentially with the PC for an intake and screening meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to enable the PC and the parents to ensure that PC is an appropriate process choice for the family.

If the parents and the PC decide to proceed, each parent will need to obtain independent legal advice on the terms of the PC Agreement, and then sign it. The PC 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.

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 they consider necessary to assist the family. 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. 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 they cannot effectively help the family, they may resign.


Before we meet

Read the "Getting Started" guide