The Role of a Parenting Coordinator in Family Law


May 21, 2009

Separation has an impact not only on parents, who must deal with the breakdown of the relationship, but also children. In some instances, conflict between parents continues long after the relationship breakdown and after intervention by the court. The negative impact on a child's emotional and psychological well-being of a failure on the part of parents to protect children from the parents' disputes is well documented by qualified professionals.

Parenting coordination is a child-focused process to assist families in addressing issues without repeated recourse to the court process and its associated financial costs. The goals of parenting coordination include to minimize further conflict and court appearances and provide assistance of a neutral, qualified decision maker who can resolve conflicts between the parents on parenting issues as they arise.
Parents involved in parenting coordination have usually entered into a separation agreement or obtained a court order dealing with custody, guardianship and access issues but continue to experience a high level of conflict. Parents can agree to retain a parenting coordinator or a court has discretion to order that the parties retain a parenting coordinator if it finds it is in the best interests of the child. The court may give directions regarding the mandate of the parenting coordinator and responsibility between the parents for the costs of the parenting coordinator.

The parenting coordinator is usually a qualified family law lawyer or mental health professional and is retained on an ongoing basis, often for one or two years. Either parent may contact the parenting coordinator if a dispute arises on a parenting issue. The parenting coordinator will listen to each parent and attempt to mediate a resolution to the dispute. If a mediated solution is not reached, then the parenting coordinator will make a decision.

Advantages of parenting coordination include the focus on the child in the decision making process, and the timely resolution of disputes. It can assist in implemention of and compliance with a parenting plan, and to help the parents communicate more effectively. The family benefits from the consistency provided by ongoing involvement of a single professional person with the family and the assistance of that professional to ensure protection of the child from the parents' disputes. Additional advantages include a reduction in the uncertainty and expense that often arises through the court process.