What is a parenting coordinator?

Mom with school aged boy

A parenting coordinator is a licensed mental health, legal, or certified family mediation professional with a degree in mental health. A parenting coordinator can help parents resolve minor parenting disputes only after a final order or agreement for parenting is in place.  

A parenting coordinator can help resolve day-to-day conflicts such as: 

  • small changes to a parenting access plan, such as vacations and holidays 
  • scheduling activities and arranging for pick up and drop off to activities like ballet, hockey, or tutoring 
  • children’s travel and passport arrangements 
  • how your children’s clothing and school items are moved between homes 

Can the court order a parenting coordinator? 

Parenting coordination is entirely voluntary. A parent cannot be forced to participate. Courts do not have the jurisdiction to order that parents participate in a voluntary dispute resolution process like parenting coordination without their consent. 

See, for example, the decision of the court in Sue-A-Quan v. Duarte 

In this case, the court refused the husband’s request to appoint a parenting coordinator in the absence of the wife’s consent. 

How does the parenting coordination process work? 

There are typically two phases to the parenting coordination process: the mediation phase and the arbitration phase. In the mediation phase, the parenting coordinator helps the parents resolve disputes. If the parents cannot do so, then the parenting coordinator has the authority to decide on the issue. 

These two phases were briefly described by the court in Jirova v. Benincasaas follows: 

  • Non-decision-making component (mediation phase): the parenting coordinator assesses the family dynamics to obtain a better understanding of the parenting issues and challenges, educates the family about child development matters and the impact of parenting conflict on the children, coaches the parents about communication skills and parenting strategies and mediates disputes as they arise. 
  • Decision-making component (arbitration phase): when resolution through mediation is not possible, the parenting coordinator makes a binding decision on the issue in dispute after providing both parents an opportunity to be heard. During this phase, the parenting coordinator can speak with professionals involved with the family or interview children if they feel it is in the children’s best interest to do so. 

Because parenting coordination gives the coordinator authority to make a binding decision (called an Award), a law requires both parents to get independent legal advice before signing a Parenting Coordination Agreement. There is also a requirement in law that the parenting coordinator screens for any power imbalance and domestic violence before any family law arbitration takes place.  

How much does a parenting coordinator cost? 

Parenting coordinators typically charge an hourly rate ranging from $200 – $500 per hour. A parenting coordinator’s hourly rate can be influenced by their experience level, knowledge of the subject, and availability. 

Many parents split the parenting coordinator fees equally but can agree to another fee-sharing arrangement. 

This information should be included in the Parenting Coordination Agreement. Many Agreements also give authority to the parenting coordinator to reallocate costs of the process where appropriate (e.g., if one person is using the service disproportionately and causing the other parent to incur substantial expenses) and to make an award of costs in situations where the parents had to arbitrate a dispute. 

What is a parenting plan? 

A parenting plan is a written document that outlines how parents will raise their children after separation or divorce. A parenting plan can be incorporated into a court order, family arbitration award, or separation agreement. For more information, please refer to our blog on how to assist a woman with a parenting plan