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Parenting Coordination

Once they have a parenting plan, either by agreement or court order, many parents are able to work together to implement it, without further interventions from the court or mediators.

Other parents will experience a higher degree of conflict and may require assistance to make their parenting plan work well for their family.

Parenting Coordination is a specialized dispute resolution process for those parents needing help with the interpretation and management of their parenting plan.

It is a private, confidential and supportive multi-staged process that offers parents the opportunity to work out their disagreements together, with coaching and mediation from the PC. If they cannot reach agreements, the PC will give them each a chance to submit evidence and make arguments, after which the PC will make a binding decision.

Rather than go to court for day-to-day disagreements, parents can work with a PC who is committed to supporting them and their children in a structured, empathetic and powerful dispute resolution process.

Our team of Parenting Coordinators (PCs) brings different backgrounds and approaches, but we all work from the same fundamental premise of respect for each parent, and putting children first.

And because we believe in working as a team, all of our PC parents benefit from having two PCs on their file— so there is always a back-up if needed—for the cost of a single PC.

Goals of the Parenting Coordination Process

The primary goal of the PC process is to empower parents to resolve disputes about their parenting plan between themselves. Parenting coordinators use a range of interventions— from sharing resources, mediating agreements to receiving evidence and making binding decisions where it is in the best interests of the child to do so. Our PCs work thoughtfully with each set of parents to help them learn the most effective co-parenting style for them, and find the most useful resources to help them do that.

Our PC team members are all lawyers who understand both mediation and arbitration well. They are capable and efficient arbitrators when a decision needs to be made.

Our PC services are delivered online, making them fast, affordable and accessible to our clients.

Getting Started with our PC Team

The first step is for the parents to have a final agreement or order for decision-making and parenting time. Parenting agreements often include terms for retaining a parenting coordinator to resolve future disputes about the parenting plan. (read our blog posts for tips on what those terms should include.)

Once the parents have agreed on their PC, the next step is to submit intake forms and a Consent to a Confidential Interview with the PC. The most suitable PC will meet with each parent to assess if they are ready and if the matter is appropriate for this process.

The next step is for the parents and their lawyers to negotiate the details of the PC Agreement.

Important note: Parenting Coordinators only have the jurisdiction given to them by the parents in the PC Agreement. Judges cannot order parents into PC, it is a 100% voluntary process. So it will be up to the parents and their lawyers to decide how much responsibility they want to give to the PC.

Our Unique, Team PC Model

There are different types of parenting coordinators. It is important for parents to choose the right process and the right PC for their family.

Here is our approach:

  1. Most importantly, we work as a team. All of our PCs are also lawyers, with lots of training in conflict resolution skills, the needs of children, helping parents communicate effectively, and fair and proportionate arbitration. We assign two PCs to each file— one primary and one back-up—so that your family will be well-served at all times. Learn more about our PC Team here: Hilary Linton, Borzou Tabrizi, Lindsay Kertland, Elizabeth Hyde.
  2. We do not try to ‘fix’ you or the other parent. We do not believe in intrusive supervision of parental decision-making. Rather we work with parents to reach agreements on appropriate protocols that are mutually respectful and effective. We keep our communications brief, informative, friendly and firm, and we teach our clients to do the same.
  3. We follow the New Ways for Families™ coaching model whenever possible, and encourage all our clients to do the same. Learn more about that here.
  4. We support our clients with many great resources; see our Co-Parenting Resources here.
  5. We ask our clients to come to us ready to negotiate. We provide all clients with a secure file-sharing centre where all relevant information is uploaded by the parents. We use a lot of structure to help parents find workable ways to communicate and if possible settle their disagreements.
  6. We believe in fair procedures. If we need to arbitrate, we have a transparent, structured process, one that offers each parent a full opportunity to be heard and to respond to the arguments of the other parent. We provide written decisions with reasons whenever we make one.
  7. Our rates are reasonable! We charge lower-than-market rates because we want our services to be accessible to those who need them. We charge block fees as much as possible, and work with our clients in scheduled 1-4 hour long meetings whenever possible. And our co-PC model offers our clients the benefit of two PCs for the price of one.
  8. We discourage emergencies. With our highly structured, team process, we find most clients are able to develop the skills they need to avoid crises. This saves our clients time, stress and money.

We have years of experience working as mediators, arbitrators, parenting coordinators and teachers. Our Team members teach not only Parenting Coordination, but also Family Law, Family Arbitration, and Family Mediation.

FAQ

What are Some Examples of Problems that are Suitable for PCs?

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. Transition times and transportation issues persist after the parenting schedule is in place;
  4. Consents for travel are difficult to obtain;
  5. Parents disagree on the children’s hobbies, extra-curricular activities, travel plans or behaviours;
  6. Parents cannot agree on what constitutes a ‘major’ decision, or whether a matter is a ‘health’ or an ‘educational’ decision, or disagree on day-to-day educational or health decisions for the children;
  7. Parents need help working out changes to their parenting plan as their children mature or circumstances change;
  8. Parents disagree on the interpretation of their parenting plan;
  9. Parents feel that the other parent is not respecting the provisions of the parenting plan.

What Kinds of Cases are Not Appropriate for Parenting Coordination?

Every set of parents and each child is different. We try to assess whether we can help each family based on their circumstances. Some situations that may not benefit from parenting coordination include where a party is fearful for their safety or the safety of their children; there is a no-contact or restraining order in place resulting from criminal charges; there are significant issues of mental health that require clinical support; there is an ongoing Children’s Aid Society file; and where one or both parents are not likely to be able to cooperate with the process and follow directions and decisions they do not agree with.

How Much Does Parenting Coordination Cost?

All of our PCs charge between $400-$500 per hour. We all request deposits of between $1500-$2500 and ask that they be replenished as they are used up. Each case turns on its own facts. Some PC clients hardly need us after their first couple of meetings. Others require regular assistance managing their parenting plan.

What Kinds of Issues Can PCs resolve?

PCs offer what is known as ‘secondary arbitration’ under the Ontario Family Law Act. This is defined as:

“ a family arbitration that is conducted in accordance with a separation agreement, a court order or a family arbitration award that provides for the arbitration of possible future disputes relating to the ongoing management or implementation of the agreement, order or award.”

As such, PCs have jurisdiction to deal with any provisions of a parenting agreement, order or award that provide for how decisions will be made for the children and how their parenting time is divided. 

PC Agreements should identify the specific provisions of the parenting agreement, order or award that the PC may manage or interpret, and list the specific functions of the PC, including coaching, mediation and arbitration.

What Happens During the PC Process?

The Parenting Coordinator will be given all relevant reports, court and other documents.

The PC may speak with professionals who have been or are involved with the family. The Parenting Coordinator will meet with the parents, and may meet with anyone else they consider necessary to assist the family. The PC may interview the children and provide the parents with a Hear the Child™ Report. All such contacts will take place with complete disclosure and transparency to the parents, and the PC will report to the parents in their discretion about such conversations.

The PC will schedule online or in-person meetings for communication coaching, sharing of information and resources, review of the parenting plan terms, discussion of disagreements and for mediation of disputes. The PC will meet with the parents separately and/or together as they feel is most helpful. At Riverdale we use a secure file sharing centre and a structured meeting planning document to ensure that both parents and the PC are always working with the same, clearly-identified information.

When agreements are made, the PC will send the parents a Consent Award and invite them to secure legal advice. The Award will become binding after a defined time.

Where disputes are not resolved using these strategies, to the satisfaction of both parents, the PC will convene a hearing. The structured planning document and information in the file sharing centre, along with any further information that the parents wish to provide, will form the basis of the PC’s decision, which will be binding on the parents.

The PC may seek out further evidence from important third parties such as teachers, medical professionals, caregivers, and from the Hear the Child Report, if they feel it is necessary to make a decision in the best interests of the children. Where this is done the parents will be given disclosure of the information being relied on by the PC and an opportunity to respond to it.

The parents and the PC will work together in this fashion for the term of the PC Agreement, usually two years. Parents may renew the PC Agreement for further terms if they both agree.

Can the PC Interview the Children?

Yes! Our PCs are all trained (or being trained) in the Hear the Child  TM Interview and Report process. This is a unique and affordable process whereby the PC will meet with the children, interview them and provide a Report to the parents about what the child agreed to share. We are all members of the Family Dispute Resolution Institute of Ontario which has an affiliation agreement with the BC Hear the Child Society, which designed this model. Read more about our Hear the Child process here.

Can I terminate my PC Agreement if I do not like the process?

The PC Agreement provides that neither parent can unilaterally terminate the process, but the parents together may dismiss their PC if they wish. And the PC may resign if they feel that the process is no longer appropriate for the family. However, it is rare for PCs to make that decision. We recommend that parents share any concerns they have about the process with their PC at the intake meeting stage when the matter is assessed for suitability.

What if the Other Parent does not Follow Agreements or PC Decisions?

We have found that most parents value this process. Our clients report satisfaction with our work, we think because we care about them both and treat them fairly, equally and with compassion. We believe that our structured, focused and cost-effective mediation and decision-making process helps parents have confidence in what we do.

But sometimes, one parent or the other may not comply with our procedures or decisions. In those cases we recommend speaking with counsel for further advice. We cannot enforce our own decisions or procedures other than with costs sanctions, which we will and do apply.

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Before we meet

Read the "Getting Started" guide

Resources

Co-Parenting Resources for Our Clients