Parenting coordination is a “non-adversarial dispute resolution process” for high-conflict divorced or separated parents. Parenting coordinators (PCs) are those charged with carrying out the process. Parenting coordination is most often used after two parents exhibit an inability to resolve their parenting disputes through less drastic means.
How Does Parental Coordination Begin?
The decision to enlist the help of a Parenting Coordinator (PC) could be voluntary or forced. Either the parents agree that it is necessary due to their inability to work together effectively, or the court will make a ruling to appoint a parenting coordinator.
Depending on jurisdiction and case specifics, a parenting coordinator may have a lot of control over the everyday lives of a family, which probably explains why PCs are usually not optional. You can find out here more facts about parenting coordinators and parallel parenting.
What Exactly Do Parental Coordinators Do?
In a nutshell, parental coordinators check-in on co-parents regularly and mediate the day-to-day affairs of raising children. According to the Guidelines for Parenting Coordinators of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, parental coordinators are also responsible for:
- Offering guidance to parents: PCs may recommend parental education classes to one or both co-parents.
- Monitoring for safety: PCs will be on the lookout for signs of abuse or neglect and must take appropriate action to address it.
- Honoring the terms of protective and no-contact orders: PCs are responsible for ensuring that court orders are followed when implemented.
- Reporting suspicions of substance misuse and mental impairment: Substance abuse and mental health are among the top concerns in any kind of social work.
- Looking for signs of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV): This includes physical violence, but also other types of aggressive behavior (including unwanted or coerced sexual advances and coercion through financial means) that involve “intentional harm to emotional safety, security, and well being.”
Qualifications of PCs
The American Psychological Association (APA) lays out specific guidelines for PCs. The guidelines for parenting controllers are pretty in-depth, but generally speaking, the APA requires PCs to exhibit the “highest standards of their profession”. This means that PCs are expected to be just as qualified as those in similar professions, such as counselors and psychologists.
The authority with which parenting coordinators operate varies from state to state. However, the scope of power in many states is quite broad. Depending on the jurisdiction, PCs may have authority over:
- Transportation, vacation, and other schedules: PCs might be permitted to make small changes to parenting schedules, transportation to and from school, etc.
- Healthcare management including, but not limited to, medical, dental, and vision. PCs may be allowed to make medical decisions for a child when co-parents disagree or are unable or unwilling.
- Child-rearing issues: In some cases, PCs may have authority over things like bedtimes, discipline, curfews, diets, and homework.
- Mental healthcare: PCs are often permitted to order mental health examinations for the children or either co-parent.
- Education: A PC may resolve disputes over where a child attends school or even special education considerations.
Ethical and Confidentiality Considerations
Given the scope of their authority and duties, co-parents should not expect much confidentiality in their relationships with PCs. Furthermore, PCs have an ethical obligation to serve the best interests of the children above all else. That often means reporting incidents or making recommendations that one or both co-parents may find unnecessary or invasive.
Options to Try Before Parental Coordination
Parental coordination is generally not the ideal situation for most parents. Having a stranger come in and start making rules considering how a child is raised can be very difficult for parents to accept. Bringing in a parenting coordinator is not ideal for the court either.
In a divorce involving children, the court is always looking to do whatever they can to keep life as normal for the children as possible. Bringing in a third party to help make decisions about parenting does not exactly fit that bill. However, above normalcy, the duty of the court is to protect the well being of the children.
So, in situations where the parents show themselves completely incapable of working together in any form, consistency for the children outweighs normalcy. Before turning to parental coordination, there are multiple methods that parents can try to raise their children together after divorce. The main two methods are co-parenting and parallel parenting. Try giving each other option a shot before turning to parental coordination.
Co-parenting is generally considered to be the ideal form of parenting for children of separated parents. But it is also often the most difficult as it involves very close contact between ex-partners. For couples that eventually have to turn to parental coordination due to their inability to work together, co-parenting is unlikely to be a viable option.
Co-parenting involves both parents attending important events for the children and closely working together to provide a consistent set of rules.
For parents who believe they may have to move to parental coordination in order to raise their children effectively, parallel parenting is much more likely to work as an alternative option. Parallel parenting involves minimal contact between the parents. Most of the communication between parents is done through electronic means. While the big picture decisions regarding the lives of the children are made together, the day-to-day rules in each household are left to the discretion of each parent individually.
While co-parenting provides the children with more consistency, parallel parenting has proven an effective alternative. Parallel parenting still gives the children a fair level of stability and protects them from the turmoil of fighting between their parents. Try these options for parenting post-divorce first and then move on to other options. Only move to parental coordination if you can not make something else work.
Parental coordination and its agents serve to resolve ongoing conflicts between divorced or separated parents who cannot or will not agree on custodial issues. Parental coordinators have qualifications similar to those in comparable professions and may have considerable authority over many aspects of families’ lives.
Mainly, parental coordinators help solve disputes between high conflict parents and look for elements or circumstances that could jeopardize children’s well-being. If this may be the only way you can parent effectively with your ex, you should consider enlisting the help of a parental coordinator.