Parenting coordination is most useful for parents who already have a parenting plan or other permanent arrangements for custody, guardianship and access, usually recorded in a court order or in a written agreement. Parenting co-ordination isn't designed to make final arrangements like these, it's meant to help implement and work with those arrangements once they're in place.
Parenting co-ordination does not replace mediation or any other effective means of negotiation, consensus-building and cooperative decision-making. Instead, parenting coordination offers parents involved in high-conflict disputes the consistent, ongoing direction of a single, qualified professional using a less adversarial, less expensive dispute resolution process. Parenting co-ordination supports both parties to improve communication and to try to put their children's needs at the centre of their concerns rather than put the children in the middle of their conflict.
Parents who agree to try parenting co-ordination rather than going back to court will meet with a parenting coordinator and sign a Parenting Co-Ordination Agreement that outlines the role, objectives and scope of the co-ordinator’s services, as well as the rights and obligations of each parent. The parenting co-ordinator will usually be retained for a fixed period up to two years.
When parenting disputes arise, either parent may contact the parenting co-ordinator. The co-ordinator will listen to each parent's side of the story and attempt to reach a resolution of the dispute through information gathering and consensus building. If a settlement cannot be reached by consensus, the co-ordinator will make a determination to resolve the dispute which both parents will be bound by. When the next problem comes up, the parents will go back to their parenting co-ordinator and the process starts again. Along the way, the parenting co-ordinator will also try to help the parents learn to communicate more effectively with each other and identify the hot-button issues which trigger disputes. The parenting co-ordinator will continue working with the parents until the term of his or her retainer expires or when either the parent co-ordinator or both parents agree to end the parenting co-ordination process, hopefully because they feel they can independently navigate any issues that might arise in future.
Parenting co-ordination does not usurp the role of the courts, no alternative dispute resolution process can. While the parents are involved in the parenting co-ordination process, they are expected not to apply to court for an order different than the decision of the parenting coordinator. A parent who does go to court over an issue already decided by the parenting co-ordinator will have to contribute to the other parent's costs of responding to the application, and must accept the risk that the court will agree with the co-ordinator's decision.
Parenting co-ordination comes from Canada and the United States where it can often be ordered by court. In the UK, this is still a voluntary but very valuable means of making arrangements for children without the need for continual recourse to court.
As AFCC (Association of Family and Conciliation Courts) members, we are one of the first family law practitioners to take up the new opportunity to train as Parenting Co-ordinators.
If you would like further information regarding the benefits and suitability of parenting co-ordination for your circumstances, you can call Belinda on 01223 355912.