Parenting coordination is a process where a qualified professional uses a mixture of child development education, mediation, arbitration, and communication support to reduce the amount of conflict that a family is experiencing. The objective is to help the family transition through the separation process with as little conflict as possible, and if the conflict is already quite high, manage the conflict and help them progress more quickly to a point where they can function on their own.
In high conflict circumstances where the child appears to be exposed to toxic stress between the parents, parenting coordination can be court ordered. Parents can enter into an agreement for the assistance and involvement of a parenting coordinator without a court order. (Independent legal advice will be required before entering into such an agreement). Most agreements are for a 6 month to 1 year involvement.
Agreements give the parenting coordinator greater authority and empower him or her to ensure that the level of conflict is reduced and contained. This service is suitable for situations where there is interference with parenting time and/or parental alienation, domestic violence, unsubstantiated allegations of violence and abuse, or concerns about capacity to adequately care for the children.
When working with very high conflict families, a parenting coordinator objectively assesses the situation to:
- ensure safety,
- evaluate areas of concern
- begin identifying and brainstorm potential solutions,
- promote the well being of all family members,
- assist all family members to negotiate the emotional and practical aspects of the transition,
- advocate for the best interest of the children at all times,
- impress upon parents the importance of regulating their behaviours,
- facilitate communication, understanding, and respect,
- monitor the family’s function to help resolve issues that come up on an ongoing basis,
- be an impartial, informed resource for teachers, coaches, police officers, child welfare investigators, and judges,
- identify the particular needs of a family and either provide services directly or provide appropriate referrals and collaborations,
- provide coordination and cohesion among various professionals involved with the family, and
- avoid a costly bilateral parenting assessment by facilitating the development and implementation of a parenting arrangement that best meets the interests of the family and the family members.
Parenting coordination will help families move much more quickly from a hostile, volatile situation to, at the very least, a functional “parallel parenting” arrangement.
Moderate and Low Conflict Situations
When working with families that are maintaining a moderate or low level of conflict, a parenting coordinator does most, and perhaps all, of the things listed above, but the degree of involvement is less.
Generally, when employed early, education and mediation will constitute the bulk of the parenting coordination process. Periodically, many parents will reach an impasse on a particular issue. Having a parenting coordinator in place to make a decision in a timely and informed way can reduce animosity, conflict and empower parents to work together. Without this arbitration component in place, such impasses either go unresolved, a judge who is unfamiliar with the family makes a decision, or the parents manipulatively get what they want whenever they can.
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PCs enter into agreements/binding contracts with the parents to mediate and/or arbitrate whatever the parents cannot resolve themselves.
Once both parties have agreed on their PC, each will complete a confidential intake form. Each will then meet separately and confidentially with the PC for an intake and screening meeting. The purpose of these meetings is to ensure that PC is an appropriate process choice for the family.
If all decide to proceed, each parent will need to obtain independent legal advice on the terms of the PC Agreement, and then sign. The PC obtains any other necessary information from them by phone or from their lawyers during a conference call. The PC will review the parties’ parenting plan, as well as any relevant court orders and custody/access assessment reports.
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, that parent cannot dismiss the PC prior to the expiry of the term. If the PC determines that he/she cannot effectively help the family, he/she may resign.