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.

One: Assessment

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

  • Custody
  • 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

Why would I choose Parenting Coordination over Family Mediation?

Much of what you do during a Parenting Coordination session is in fact mediation. A trained Parenting Coordinator has significant training and experience in Family / Divorce Mediation and uses these techniques to assist you as much as possible to resolve all issues via mediation whereby you arrive at your own mutually-satisfactory resolution. The difference between this Process and Family Mediation is that in this Process the Parenting Coordinator has decision-making authority whereby they can make a decision on your behalf as an arbitrator. The Final Award of the Parenting Coordinator is enforceable as a Court Order. In contrast, if no resolution is reached in the Family Mediation process, the parties are required to seek resolution through other means such as Court.

I don’t think I need a Parenting Coordinator, but the other party thinks we do – should I sign on?

Most high conflict parents have attended Court many times before ever reaching agreement or obtaining a Court Order. By the time they have their final parenting plan, many people have exhausted their financial resources and/or emotional resources in fighting the battle. Many people want closure on their conflict. However, the reality may be for you that the conflict will not end with your written document; if this is the case, it can be beneficial to have the Parenting Coordination process available as-needed so that a quick and efficient resolution can be reached. Remember, you sign on for 2 years, but if you never have to use the services of the Parenting Coordinator, there is no cost to you. The fees are hourly.

Once the Process is started, what if one party doesn’t attend a meeting?

The Parenting Coordinator has the ability to notify the parties that an arbitration hearing will occur at a certain time, date, and place. In that notice, it states that an Award may be granted in the absence of one party. This notice is usually effective in ensuring that both parties are in attendance.

Why do we have to wait until after our Agreement or Court Order to start the Process?

The role of the Parenting Coordinator is to help to implement the existing agreement or Court Order, so by definition the role cannot start until such a plan is in place.

Why is it necessary to sign on for a 2 year minimum term for the Process?

Part of the benefit of this Process is to establish a relationship with the Parenting Coordinator so that they get to know your families. This familiarity assists in resolving disputes more quickly and with less escalation. Remember, if you never have to use the services of the Parenting Coordinator, there is no cost to you. The fees are hourly.

Why are Parenting Coordinators limited to only assisting with certain types of decisions?

The role of the Parenting Coordinator is to implement a parenting plan once it has been completed, not to make significant changes to the agreement or Court Order.  The role has been created to assist high conflict families to avoid multiple court applications throughout their post-separation co-parenting relationship by diverting them to a process which can assist with resolving the more “minor” issues. If the parties require a major change which is outside of the Parenting Coordinator’s jurisdiction, they may return to their lawyers or to Court to have it resolved.