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Parenting Coordination Services

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. Parenting Coordination is designed for parents who cannot agree on day-to-day matters affecting their children. Our Parenting Coordinators have 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.

Goals of the Parenting Coordination Process

The goal of Parenting Coordination is to help parents 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 moderate to high-conflict parents improve their communication, learn effective negotiation strategies, and develop skills to reduce conflict. The Parenting Coordinator will also help to interpret areas of the Parenting Plan, Court Order or Separation Agreement that may be causing many of the conflicts. The Parenting Coordination process may involve coaching, education, mediation, and arbitration.

Arbitration During the Parenting Coordination Process

When the Parenting Coordinator cannot assist the parents to reach agreements, the Parenting Coordinator is authorized to make decisions for them through the arbitration process. These decisions are legally binding.

Retaining a Parenting Coordinator

All Parenting Coordinators in Ontario enter into private contracts with the parents. The term of these contracts is generally two years but will be decided between the parents, counsel and the Parenting Coordinator. Each parent is required to have independent legal advice before signing the Parenting Coordination Agreement. The involvement of counsel throughout the term of the Parenting Coordination Agreement varies with each file. Parenting Coordinators at Riverdale Mediation have the highest level of additional training possible, and they have years of family law experience as a foundation. In addition, at Riverdale Mediation, we also teach Parenting Coordination. Parenting Coordinators should be certified, through organizations such as the Family Dispute Resolution Institute of Ontario.


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, Parenting Coordinators assist parents with the successful implementation of their Parenting Plan. If there is a dispute with respect to the Plan, the Parenting Coordinator will try to mediate an agreement between the parties. If that fails, the Parenting Coordinator 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. Transition times and transportation issues persist after the parenting schedule is in place;
  5. Consent for travel are difficult to obtain;
  6. Parents disagree on the activities they wish to enroll the children in;
  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 custody order or Parenting Plan;
  9. 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 of a Parenting Coordinator?

Many separation agreements include a provision for the future use of a Parenting Coordinator. However, before either parent can enforce such a clause, they both must obtain independent legal advice, be screened for suitability by the Parenting Coordinator, and sign a Parenting Coordination Agreement. Both parents should, therefore, read as much as they can about Parenting Coordination, the proposed Parenting Coordinator and the terms of the Parenting Coordination 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 Parenting Coordinator, they will each need to complete a confidential PC intake form. Each parent will then meet separately and confidentially with the Parenting Coordinator for an intake and screening meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to enable the PC and the parents to ensure that Parenting Coordinator is an appropriate process choice for the family.

If the parents and the Parenting Coordinator decide to proceed, each parent will need to obtain independent legal advice on the terms of the Parenting Coordination Agreement, and then sign it. The Parenting Coordinator obtains any other necessary information from them by telephone or from their lawyers during a conference call. The Parenting Coordinator 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 Parenting Coordinator will have full access to any reports, documents and other professionals who have been or continue to be involved with the family. The Parenting Coordinator will meet with the parents, possibly 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 Parenting Coordinator will try to assist them by providing support, education, and mediation.

If the parents cannot reach an agreement with this help, the Parenting Coordinator 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 Parenting Coordinator for the agreed-upon term. If both parents find the Parenting Coordinator unhelpful, they can agree to dismiss the Parenting Coordinator. However, if only one parent is unhappy with the Parenting Coordinator, that parent cannot dismiss the Parenting Coordinator prior to the expiry of the term.

If the Parenting Coordinator determines that they cannot effectively help the family, they may resign.


Before we meet

Read the "Getting Started" guide