In theory, when a parenting order or divorce / separation agreement is in place, you and your ex should be able to co-parent without dispute. In practice, though, the implementation of a parenting plan might not be trouble-free. How, then, do you meet in the middle?
Cue the Parenting Coordinator.
Parenting Coordination is a cost-effective alternative dispute resolution for ongoing parenting concerns, and can be of great assistance to parties with ongoing communication issues that impede effective co-parenting after separation. It serves to educate parents on strategies that may help them collaborate more effectively and resolve conflicts that may arise. Issues that can benefit from Parenting Coordination include:
- Parenting schedules
- Educational decisions (including choice of schools)
- Participation in extracurricular activities
- Communication between parents
- Holiday schedules
- Pick-up and drop-off of children
- Health-related decisions (including psychological intervention)
So, what does Parenting Coordination look like?
The process begins with both parents agreeing on a professional (usually a psychologist or family lawyer) to the role of Coordinator – an appointment conducted either through an order of the family court or a contract. The parties then decide what specific issues the Parenting Coordinator will assist with, including those the Parenting Coordinator will render decisions on. A family lawyer can assist with the drafting of the contact and by giving advice on the background to the process.
Once in place, the Parenting Coordinator meets with both parents. Typically, the Coordinator provides information about the effects of divorce and separation on children; he/she may also share information about the psychological impacts of conflict on the family. Acting as mediator, the Parenting Coordinator helps the parties reach their own resolution. If the parents are unable to reach an agreement, the Parenting Coordinator may make a decision on their behalf if he/she has been granted powers of arbitration. Such decisions are legally binding in family court.
In circumstances where a Parenting Coordinator makes a decision as an arbitrator because mediation was unsuccessful, the parents may submit evidence to the Coordinator for consideration in the process. A family lawyer may also provide representation in arbitration depending on the terms of the parenting coordination contract. The specific terms of the contract are crucial in determining how robust arbitration can be.
Parenting Coordination can be a very useful approach for meeting in the middle after separation or divorce. If you’d like to further explore the process, contact our Legal Navigator for a free strategy session.