Frequently Asked Questions About Parenting Coordination
Q: What is Parenting Coordination?
Parenting Coordination is a new alternative dispute resolution methodology in which a qualified, trained professional assists separated or divorced parents to resolve issues relating to creating and/or implementing their parenting plan. The goal of parenting coordination is to help the parents avoid litigating issues specifically related to co-parenting by developing and/or implementing a parenting plan and helping the parties comply with the terms of the existing plan or court’s order regarding parenting issues. Parenting Coordination provides an opportunity for parents to develop an ability co-parent their children in a healthy, constructive way, rather than perpetuating a conflict that places their children in the middle of their parents’ battles.
Q. What are some of the benefits of Parenting Coordination?
In high-conflict divorces, the parties often use (and abuse) the court system to resolve their issues relating to co-parenting. By utilizing a parenting coordinator, the parties can resolve their disputes more cost-efficiently and time-effectively, while relieving the Court of the burden of clogging their caseload with these non-legal disputes.
- Avoid excessive costs relating to legal fees and expenses
- Time-effectively reach resolution of disputes rather than waiting weeks or months for court availability
- Address co-parenting issues in a non-adversarial setting
- Parenting coordinator often speaks to and consults with many adjunct people involved in the family, including therapists, attorneys, teachers, physicians, and other family members to learn about the family dynamic
- Education for parents regarding the harm to children caused by high-conflict divorce
- Improve communication skills between parents to enable better co-parenting
- Learn to establish boundaries and set forth expectations
- Reduce conflict between parents
- Ability for parenting coordinator to make final decision for the parents and make recommendation to the Court, if the parents are unable to resolve the dispute amicably amongst themselves
- Solution-oriented process, focused on helping parents work together to achieve results that are in the best interests of their children.
- Work with parents to manage their emotions and learn to communicate more effectively so that they can
- Understand the impact of conflict on their children
- Learn more about the developmental needs of their children
- Negotiate appropriate post-divorce or separation boundaries
- Identify mutually agreeable parenting goals
- Brainstorm a variety of options to meet goals
- Evaluate options to reach agreements within legal guidelines
Q: How is Parenting Coordination distinguished from mediation, guardian ad litem or therapy?
Traditional therapy is used to treat an emotional problem or psychological problem. It is not the role of the Parenting Coordinator to treat psychological problems of the parents.
Mediation and arbitration are alternative dispute resolution methodologies designed to resolve issues or cases in a short timeframe. Parenting coordinators work with parents in a solution-oriented fashion to seek resolutions timely and cost-effectively, without resorting to volatile courtroom drama.
Guardians ad litem evaluate the parents and the children, and make recommendations to the Court specifically relating to where the child should live and which parent should have what legal rights relating to that child. Parenting coordinators work is complementary to Guardians ad litem, by facilitating the parents’ compliance with the Court’s instructions. The guardian ad litem is not appointed to educate the parents regarding co-parenting issues or to mediate or arbitrate disputes between the parents. In contrast, the Parenting Coordinator’s work involves a problem-solving alignment and close working relationship with both parents while still keeping the best interests of the children at the forefront.
Q. What are the characteristics of families who could benefit from parenting coordination?
The parents are having frequent disputes about issues such as the parenting schedule, exchange times and locations, extracurricular activities, education choices, and medical decisions. They may have gone back to court several times since the divorce. Some of these families may be called “high conflict,” meaning continuing hostility and frequent disputes between the parents.
Q. What background and training is required of parenting coordinators?
Parenting coordinators need an advanced degree in law, psychology, social work, or counseling and experience with “high conflict families.” They must complete training in parenting coordination and family law mediator training.
Q: What information does a Parenting Coordinator have about the family?
The Parenting Coordinator should have access to any of the following for review: parenting evaluations; guardian ad litem reports; interim or final court orders in the divorce or parenting case; protective (family violence) orders; and other applicable cases involving criminal assault, domestic violence or child abuse regarding one or both parents; educational records; other relevant records; and information from parents, children and other collateral sources.
Q: When in the court process is Parenting Coordination most likely to be used?
Parenting coordination can be utilized at any point in the divorce or separation process. However, a parenting coordinator usually works with a family after the divorce or final parenting decree when there is repeated returns to court, continuing anger and distrust, difficulty between the parents in communicating and cooperating in the care of their children, or other behaviors that the court feels warrants the appointment of a parenting coordinator. A parenting coordinator may be appointed prior to a final decree if the court or the parents determine that a parenting coordinator involvement at that stage is necessary.
Q: How does it work?
The Parenting Coordinator will typically meet with the parents, individually and/or jointly. The parents’ concerns will be identified, the family situation will be assessed with the aid of court orders and documents, and a course of action will be identified, including the setting of specific goals for resolution of conflicting issues. Emails and phone calls are used to assist the parents’ work toward the goals. Additional individual or joint meetings may be scheduled and other people with information may be contacted.
Q: How long does a typical Parenting Coordination process last?
There is no “typical” in high-conflict relationships. The length of time a parenting coordinator may be engaged is highly dependent upon the parties and the complexities of the issues in conflict.
Q. What does a parenting coordinator cost and does he/she get paid?
Parenting coordinators are paid an hourly fee, set by each parenting coordinator. The fees are similar to those charged by lawyers, psychologists, accountants, and other divorce professionals. The order of appointment spells out how the fee is split. The overall cost will depend on the amount of time the process takes. The shorter the period of time, the less expensive it will be. But the cost of Parenting Coordination is small in comparison to what it could cost to litigate.
Q. Are there limitations on what a Parenting Coordinator can do?
Yes! While the Court can make decisions about a change in primary residence, time-sharing between parents, relocation issues, and child support disputes, the Parenting Coordinator may make NONE of these decisions!
A Parenting Coordinator Cannot:
- Modify time-sharing
- Change primary residence of child
- Modify child support obligations
A Parenting Coordinator May:
- make decisions regarding times and locations relating to exchange of the child, including responsibility for transportation
- make decisions regarding choice of extracurricular activities
- create holiday schedules
- create daily, weekly and/or monthly schedules
- create daycare/babysitting schedules
- make decisions relating to medical, dental and vision care
- recommend psychological counseling for the children
- make decisions regarding education, including, but not limited to school choice, tutoring, and participation in special education programs
- make decisions regarding discipline
- determine methods of communication between parents
- and, address any other issues that may be identified by the Court or agreed upon by the parents.
Q. How is Parenting Coordination different from Parent Training?
Parent Training, like Parenting Coordination, helps parents create a better environment for their children. Parent Training teaches parents the behavioral techniques and parenting skills to use with their children. The main differences, however, are (1) Parenting Coordination is strictly for parents that do not live together, (2) it incorporates issues unique to separation and divorce, and (3) it utilizes alternative dispute resolution techniques to help resolve conflict (mediation and arbitration).
Q. Does Parenting Coordination have to be court-ordered?
No. Parenting Coordination can be court ordered, but a court order is not a requirement. If both parents agree to use a Parenting Coordinator, then they may do so, notifying the court of their decision. Nevertheless, either parent can petition the court for appointment of a court-ordered Parenting Coordinator.
Q. Is Parenting Coordination covered by insurance?
No. Parenting Coordination is not therapy nor is it a medical procedure. It is not based on either pathology or medical diagnosis. Parenting Coordination is a productive conflict resolution process facilitated by a professional who is knowledgeable about divorce, the effect of conflict on children, and children’s needs insofar as parenting is concerned