Parenting Coordination (PC) is a form of dispute resolution that combines dispute assessment, case management, parent education, and if necessary, arbitration. PC is aimed at high conflict parents and the process focuses on children and reducing the occurrence of conflict and repeated court hearings in their lives.
PC operates in Canada. I first heard about it from Gillian Bishop, a divorce lawyer and a director of the London based law firm, Family Law in Partnership when she gave a talk about PC to the London Family Mediation Group in January 2017.
Sometimes family mediation is not quite enough and in order to foster the development of effective parenting a more direct approach is needed. PC which has an element of impartiality offers just that. It emphasises continual development and education about effective parenting. Its hands on approach can lead to a quicker resolution of conflicts, which will obviously be in the best interests of the child(ren) concerned.
Who can use it and when should it be used?
Parenting coordination is most useful for parents who already have a parenting plan or other permanent arrangements for custody, guardianship and access, usually recorded in a court order or in a written agreement. Parenting coordination is not designed to make final arrangements like these, however it can help implement and work with those arrangements once they are in place.
PC is very suitable for high conflict parents who require help with managing their parenting plan, improving communication, and resolving disputes. It can be used in the following scenarios:
Where one parent or both parents have concerns about drugs, alcohol, child abuse, or the stability of the other parent.
Where parents have great difficulty communicating and sharing child-related information in an effective and child-focused manner.
To help parents reach an agreement on parenting schedules, access to children, holidays, vacations, temporary variations, transitions, and etc.
Children’s recreational and enrichment activities.
When other means of conflict resolution have been unsuccessful and parenting disagreements persist.
Where there is a need for temporary arrangements for parents who are separated but are still living in the same home.
Deciding on the child(ren)’s education, healthcare, day care, religious observances, and special needs issues.
Where parents need help working out the changes to an previously agreed agreements (mediation agreement and/or otherwise) as their children mature or their circumstances change.
Who conducts PC?
Parenting Coordinators (PCOs) are usually accredited mediators and have mediation experience. They are also usually a licensed Mental Health or a Legal Professional in areas related to families.
What is the role of the PCO?
To minimise parental conflict.
To educate parents about relevant child-development principles.
Helping parents develop more effective problem solving and communication skills.
Helping with the successful implementation of the Parenting Plan.
What is the process?
Parents who agree to try PC rather than going back to court will meet with a PCO and sign a Parenting Coordination Agreement (PCA) that outlines the role, objectives and scope of the coordinator’s services, as well as the rights and obligations of each parent. The parenting coordinator can be retained for a fixed period of time, but usually for up to two years. It is important to note that other than those of a minor or temporary nature PCOs do not make decisions about legal custody or parenting schedules.
When parenting disputes arise, either parent may contact the parenting coordinator. The coordinator will listen to each parent’s side of the story and attempt to reach a resolution of the dispute through information gathering and consensus building. If the parents cannot reach an agreement with this help, the PCO may then make a binding decision after taking into consideration information from the parents, professionals such as doctors, teachers, counselors, etc, and, if necessary, the children. When the next problem arises, the parents may go back to their parenting coordinator and the process starts again.
If both parents find the PCO unhelpful, they can jointly agree to dismiss him/her. However, if only one parent is unhappy, that parent cannot dismiss the PCO prior to the expiry of the term. If the PCO determines that he/she cannot effectively help the family, he/she may resign.
Austin Chessell is a highly experienced Accredited Family, PPC and Children Mediator. He is also a Collaborative Family Solicitor. Austin has meeting rooms in North, East and West London and he also mediates online. If you find that you are having difficulties discussing separation issues, Family Mediation can provide a forum to help resolve children and financial matters. After the initial Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) there are usually around 1-5 joint sessions depending on how many matters there are to be discussed. Contact Austin via ASM on 07476 279 307 or by email at email@example.com. He will give all the help guidance that is required and will help disputing parties to consider all their options.
Harith Akma is currently studying the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) at City University London.