Facilitating cooperation and communication between higher conflict parents.
What is it?
Parenting Coordination is a child-focused dispute resolution process that assists separating or divorcing parents who are experiencing conflict to implement their existing parenting plan in an expeditious manner. Parenting coordinators focus on the use of mediation techniques to assist the parties to resolve their conflict, but also may have decision-making authority granted by the parents to assist them to arrive at final resolution.
The overarching purpose of Parenting Coordination is to minimize parental conflict thereby reducing risks to children. PC helps the parents to disengage, thereby being able to work towards effective co-parenting of their children.
Who Should Consider Parenting Coordination
- Parents who are separating / divorcing who have a high level of conflict between them
- Parents who have frequent difficulties reaching agreement on parenting issues
- Parents who frequently return to their lawyers or the Court over issues related to their parenting plan
How Does Parenting Coordination Work
- Parenting Coordinators are appointed for a specified and renewable term of up to 2 years.
- It is a flexible process whereby disputes can be resolved in a variety of ways – email, phone, online conferencing, face-to-face, etc.
- Confidentiality is limited, as information received within the process may be shared with the Court or other related parties
- PC is a fee-for-service process that is typically more timely and efficient than the Court alternative.
- Appointment of a Parenting Coordinator can be made by Court Order and/or by contractual agreement between the parents.
Role of the Parenting Coordinator
PC is a hybrid role that blends some or all of the following 5 legal and mental health functions that may be performed as part of this role.
The PC reviews court orders and information from 3rd parties, assesses family dynamics, and analyzes the conflict and issues brought forward by the parties.
Two: Parent Education & Coaching
The PC educates and coaches parents on such topics as child development, the impact of separation / divorce and conflict on children, the risk and protective factors for children, parenting skills and effective communication.
Three: Coordination & Case Management
The PC may function as a team leader who coordinates others involved with the family such as: lawyers, assessors, mediators, clergy, educators, childcare, health care professionals, therapists, child protection workers, extended family members and other caregivers.
Four: Facilitation & Mediation
When parenting disputes arise that parents are not able to resolve themselves, the PC facilitates negotiations or mediates to help the parents reach a mutual agreement. The goal is to help parents to minimize conflict. The PC documents the agreements that are reached.
Five: Decision-Making / Arbitration
If the parents choose to have a decision-making component in the PC process, then when the parents are unable to resolve a dispute they may choose to refer the issue to the PC who makes a final and binding decision in keeping with the best interests of the children and being guided by due process and the principles of natural justice. The Final Award of the PC is enforceable as a Court Order.
What Issues May be Referred to Parenting Coordination:
- Minor changes / clarification of parenting schedules or conditions including holidays, vacations, and temporary variation from existing parenting schedule
- Transitions / exchanges of the children
- Communication parent-parent or parent-child
- Children’s participation in extracurricular activities
- Movement of children’s personal belongings between households
- Health care management
- Child-rearing issues
- Education or daycare – school choice, tutoring, summer school, special education testing
- Travel & passport arrangements
- Mental health care, such as counseling for the children
- Role of significant others & extended families
What Issues Are Outside the Scope of Parenting Coordination
- Mobility / relocation issues
- Substantial changes to the parenting schedule
What Qualifications Should a PC Have?
The Alberta Family Mediation Society (AFMS) offers the designation of Registered Parenting Coordinator and Arbitrator (RPCA), which designation Stephanie Dobson holds. To obtain this designation, a professional must have the following training / experience:
- law degree / masters-level degree in psychology, social work, education, conflict resolution
- 5 years experience, post-degree, working with family and children related issues
- minimum of 35 hours in mediation / conflict resolution training
- 20 hours child development training (lawyers)
- 20 hours parenting coordination training
- 35 additional hours of specialized training
- domestic violence training
- 35 hours of specialized training in Arbitration
It important that if you choose to use this process, you ensure that your PC has the appropriate qualifications.
Parenting Coordination FAQ
▶ I don’t think I need a Parenting Coordinator, but the other party thinks we do – should I sign on?