What is a Parenting Coordinator?
Some separated or divorced parents continue to find themselves in ongoing disputes, even when they have settlement agreements and parenting plans (schedules). The high-conflict nature of those disputes keeps the parents coming back to court for resolution, and interferes with the well-being of the children.
A Parenting Coordinator (PC) is a trained mental health professional or attorney with experience in mediation and working with high-conflict separated parents. The job of the PC is to help the parents resolve their disputes, keeping them out of court. The PC is often appointed by the court, or recommended by the couple's divorce lawyers, but acts as a consultant to the parents on a private-pay basis. The service is not covered by insurance.
The PC helps parents cooperate to implement the parenting plan (visitation schedule) and learn to communicate more effectively in order to establish a collaborative parenting partnership. The Parenting Coordinator facilitates resolution of disputes, educates parents about children’s needs, monitors parental behavior and, with prior approval of the parties and/or the court, makes recommendations within the scope of the court order or appointment contract when the parents cannot agree on a resolution to their dispute.
Parenting Coordinators are often sought to help a couple who find themselves frequently in court, or unable to communicate with each other. The two parents share the cost of one PC, as opposed to each paying a lawyer to fight for them in court. Parenting Coordinators bill on an hourly basis, in line with attorneys' fees. Much of the work is conducted via email or over the phone, so it is efficient and cost-effective.
Why should we consider a Parenting Coordinator?
The aim is to offer children the opportunity to grow in a home environment free from the devastating stress of being caught in the middle of parental conflict.
My approach to Parenting Coordination combines assessment, education, case management, conflict management and sometimes decision-making functions to help high-conflict parents who have demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to make parenting decisions on their own, or to comply with parenting agreements and court orders.
The family’s progress is monitored to ensure that parents are fulfilling their obligations to their child while complying with the recommendations of the court. The process is intended to help parents establish and maintain a healthy co-parenting relationship by reducing parental conflict and the risk factors that negatively influence a child’s post-divorce adjustment.
How does a Parenting Coordinator get assigned to a case?
The Parenting Coordinator is usually appointed by the Court, with the consent of the parents. Sometimes attorneys recommend to their clients that a PC would help keep them out of court. Parents may also seek out the services of a PC on their own.
The PC's authority is set forth in an agreement signed by the parents and filed with the court, called a "consent order," because the parents consent to working with a PC. Once filed, the agreement has the force of a court order.
Parenting Coordinators can make recommendations as to how a particular dispute should be resolved in the best interests of the child. The parents can agree to follow the recommendation, and the dispute is thus settled. If one parent doesn't like the recommendation, that parent can ask the court to decide the issue. If the parents desire, they can authorize an attorney PC to make binding decisions in order to settle a dispute quickly. (In Michigan, only attorney PCs can make binding decisions. Siri is an attorney and can make binding decisions if the parties desire.)
The Parenting Coordinator’s authority is clearly spelled out in the court order, or by the consent of the parents. The parents work with the PC to determine what issues the PC will be consulted on. However, a PC can't make decisions as to custody, and can't change the amount of parenting time the court has allocated to each parent. The PC only makes decisions to help a couple settle the everyday disagreements that throw a monkey wrench into the kids being able to go back and forth smoothly between the two households.
What kinds of issues does a Parenting Coordinator address?
If specified in the court order, a Parenting Coordinator may have authority to resolve a broad range of issues, including:
· minor changes or clarification of parenting time schedules, including vacation, holidays, and temporary variations from the existing parenting plan
· transitions or exchanges of the children including date, time, place, means of transportation and/or transporter
· health care management including medical, dental, orthodontic and vision care
· child-rearing issues
· psychotherapy or other mental health care including substance abuse assessment or counseling for the children
· psychological testing or other assessment
· school choice issues
· extracurricular activity disputes
· religious observances and education
· communication between the parents about the children
· clothing, equipment and personal possessions of the children
· haircuts, tattoos, ear and body piercing issues
· role of and contact with significant others and extended families
· parenting classes for either or both parents
· any other issues as agreed by the parents and included in the court order or stipulation appointing the parenting coordinator
Can Parenting Coordinators make decisions that would change legal custody and physical custody from one parent to the other, or in other ways, substantially change the existing parenting plan?
No, this is beyond the scope of the Parenting Coordinator’s role.
Can a Parenting Coordinator serve in more than one role?
No, a Parenting Coordinator should not be appointed, or accept a Parenting Coordinator appointment, if she has been involved in a case as a guardian ad litem, custody evaluator, therapist, or one parent’s attorney.
Do Parenting Coordinators offer legal advice?
No, offering legal advice is outside the scope of the Parenting Coordinator’s role.
How are Parenting Coordinators paid?
The parents pay out of pocket. The court order sets forth the allocation of fees between the parents. Usually the PC's fees are equally divided between the parties. However, the parties may agree to a different ratio if they have a large disparity in income. The Parenting Coordinator has authority to reassess allocation of fees under certain circumstances. The Parenting Coordinator will explain and discuss fees, costs and method of payment, in writing and prior to beginning the parenting coordinator process.
For more information on the benefits of parenting coordination, please visit the PC website Parenting Coordination Central at
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