What is parenting coordination?
Parenting coordination is a form of alternative dispute resolution that can assist parents implement their parenting plan, usually after a court order for custody and access is in place. Parenting coordinators (PC) are often mental health professionals, but lawyers and mediators can also function as PCs.
Most have some knowledge of divorce/separation, child development and relevant legislation and have some experience dealing with high conflict families.
What parenting coordinators do?
A PC may be able to help you and your former partner implement and follow your parenting plan. If you have a dispute with your former partner, the PC can assist you come to a compromise. A PC could also assist you improve your problem solving, communication and conflict resolution skills.
If you and your ex-partner are not able to resolve their difference even with the assistance of the PC, the PC has some authority to make a final decision/impose a resolution that reflects the children’s best interests. This can only happen with respect to issues that fall within the parenting plan; the PC cannot impose a decision about who has custody of the children, the relocation of the children or major parenting time schedules.
Your PC will be allowed to have access to any documentation or professionals that s/he thinks relevant. S/he will meet with you, your ex-partner and/or your children as needed.
When might a parenting coordinator be appropriate?
A PC may be useful if you and your former partner are experiencing difficulties with ongoing communication and decision making about your children. A PC may also be helpful if there are drug or alcohol concerns about your ex.
You must have a parenting plan in place before you can work with a PC because their primary role is to help you implement that plan.
How do you find a parenting coordinator?
If you have a lawyer, s/he may be able to recommend a PC who is appropriate for your family. If you do not have a lawyer, family court duty counsel, FLIC staff or the court mediator may be able to give you a list of PCs in your community.
The PC will review relevant information provided by you and/or your lawyer (court orders, the parenting plan, etc.). If the PC decides to take your case, you and your former partner will sign a Parenting Coordination Agreement. You should review this agreement with your lawyer before you sign it.
A PC can become involved only if both you and your ex-partner consent. You cannot be forced to use a PC. If, later, you are both unhappy with the PC, you can end your agreement with the PC. However, if only one of you is unhappy, you must continue working with the PC until the end of the term set out in the Agreement (usually between 12 and 24 months).
Is there a fee?
PCs charge an hourly fee, which will be discussed with you and set out in the Agreement you sign. Both you and your former partner are responsible for paying this fee. Most PCs require a retainer, usually enough money to cover 20 hours of services. Some PCs have sliding scale fees to take into account their clients’ financial situations, so this is something you should ask your PC about before you commit to a fee.