The legal system has limited resources to assist high-conflict families. As such, the creation of parenting coordinators has resulted in a steadily growing trend throughout the United States, Canada and Europe of using parenting coordinators to address problems unique to high-conflict divorcing parents.
Parenting Coordination is a non-confidential, child-centered process designed to assist conflicted divorced and divorcing parents and help the courts determine the best interest of involved children. It is a form of dispute resolution for cases in which conventional mediation is inappropriate or ineffective due to high levels of conflict.
Through education, mediation and case management, the family’s progress is monitored to ensure that parents fulfill their obligations to their child(ren) and comply with court orders. With prior approval of the parties or order of the court, the parenting coordinator may make temporary decisions consistent with the scope of a court order or appointment contract to help high-conflict parents who have demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to make parenting decisions on their own.
Parenting coordinators may be used during the divorce process or post divorce when parents are having a tough time carrying out the parenting plan in the divorce decree. Parents with serious communication difficulties or with serious allegations about each other may request the monitoring services of a parenting coordinator.
The parenting coordinator is a mental health professional or family lawyer who is trained to work as a neutral with the parents to ensure parental access and protect children from unnecessary stress.
Parenting Coordination goals include:
- Shielding the child from conflict;
- Allowing the child to love both parents;
- Reducing the child’s stress;
- Improving the co-parent relationship;
- Increasing parental cooperation and respect;
- Teaching effective communication skills;
- Monitoring any attempts at alienation ;
- Mediating (pre-divorce) or clarify an existing parenting plan;
- Reducing future litigation;
- Monitoring parental behaviors and compliance with court orders;
- Reporting non-compliance to attorneys;
- Referring those involved for necessary services; and
- As last resort, provide testimony for the child(ren).
Usually the parenting coordinator is granted limited authority to make simple and temporary modifications to visitation and custody. This authority is conferred by court order or consent of the parties. Any changes are put in place to reduce stress for the children. For example, it might be wise to change a transfer time or location for a few weeks to alleviate a child’s stress at transfer.
Ultimately, a parent’s visitation rights cannot be altered in any way by the parenting coordinator absent parental agreement or court order. Unless both parents agree to a modification after a trial period, the visitation pattern reverts to the original plan as outlined in their order. However, the parenting coordinator may make recommendations to the parents and the court about those parenting issues that the parents were unable to resolve to assist the parties in improving their parenting style as well as inform the court about those issues.
Parents that are best suited for a parenting coordinator are those with high degrees of conflict, with numerous allegations against each other, who engage in frequent litigation and have a chronic inability to communicate regarding child rearing. Parenting coordination is also appropriate for rigid, mistrusting parents, those with emotional instability, substance abuse, and/or the need for supervised visitation. Parenting coordination is considered by some to be the only intervention for allegations or findings of parental alienation. For those families with chronic non-compliance and/or ongoing domestic violence, parenting coordination may not be appropriate.
Parenting coordination benefits the courts by providing a fresh view of these difficult families. Unlike any other professional working with the courts, the parenting coordinator has the unique opportunity to “see” the family in action through joint meetings. In some cases the parenting coordinator is appointed in conjunction with the use of a Guardian ad litem or custody evaluator to provide additional information to assist the Guardian ad litem or custody evaluator. In an ideal situation the PC may help the parents avoid court resolution of their family matters. When cooperation and resolution are not accomplished, the PC’s testimony is a tremendous help to the court in rendering a decision that is in the child’s best interest.
If you anticipate having difficulties carrying out your parenting plan or custody order, determine the areas that a parenting coordinator can help you. For instance, if either parent changes jobs and the visitation schedule needs to be tweaked, a parenting coordinator is an effective and efficient way to resolve the issue without getting attorneys involved and waiting out the court process.Contact Rebekah at email@example.com to discuss sliding scale fee options.