Parenting coordination is a process whereby a third party, usually a lawyer or a counsellor or a psychologist, is retained either by agreement or pursuant to a court order to assist parents who are having difficulty co-parenting and making decisions about their children.
The appropriate time for the involvement of a parenting coordinator is usually after a court order or agreement has been achieved which sets out a basic parenting structure. In such circumstances the order or agreement will usually delineate the rights and responsibilities of the parents and set a schedule of parenting time. However the parents may subsequently have disagreements regarding the operation of the order or agreement. In that situation a parenting coordinator may be brought in to help to resolve such disagreements.
Using a parenting coordinator can be most useful in situations in which parents have difficulty coming to agreements about decisions concerning their children and as a result repeatedly return to court to resolve their disagreements. A parenting coordinator is most useful in such situations because he or she plays a double role which is often described as “med/arb”. Med/arb stands for mediation and/or arbitration. This means that while a parenting coordinator will usually make all appropriate efforts to assist parents to come to agreements about issues concerning their children, he or she also has the power to break the logjam by making decisions about those issues. He or she is able to deal with a situation in which parents cannot come to an agreement about an issue concerning their children by making a decision, referred to as a “determination”, about that issue.
The involvement of a parenting coordinator in a case is normally time limited. The time limit, which is set by court order and/or agreement, is normally two years. The parenting coordinator’s involvement may also be renewed by a subsequent court order and/or agreement.
A parenting coordinator’s overarching goal, over time, is to try to help the parents to work together better. His or her long term goal is to help the parents, over time, to communicate more efficiently and respectfully so that they are better able to reach agreements concerning their children without his or her involvement. In fact the rather improbable long term goal of a parenting coordinator is to put him or herself out of work by moving the parents along the continuum of reasonableness to the point at which they are able to work together and make decisions on their own and he or she is no longer needed.
A seasoned and caring parenting coordinator is able to assist parents to come to agreements about their children and, when that is not possible, make thoughtful and reasoned determinations to resolve impasses. At Kitsilano Family Law, we have handled numerous parenting coordination cases over the years and we have the knowledge and the experience to use that process sensitively and effectively to reduce acrimony and foster better communication and cooperation for parents.
William R. (Bill) Storey is a trained, experienced and committed parenting coordinator with many years of family law experience.