Choosing a parenting coordinator

Looking over a therapist's shoulder as a couple sits on her couch

Parenting Coordination is a process separated parents can access for implementing a parenting schedule, sharing child-related information, reducing the conflict between them, and decreasing their dependence on litigation and the Court to resolve parenting issues. It can ultimately save costs; financially and emotionally for children and parents, and relationally for the co-parenting relationship.

Parenting Coordination gives parents the opportunity to create healthier and more positive outcomes for themselves as co-parents and, most importantly, for their children. A properly trained and experienced PC can provide parents with current research on child-centered approaches to parenting, educate them about child development and psychological needs, help them put the missing and necessary details in parenting plans, and ultimately make decisions when necessary if arbitration is included. As the popularity of parenting coordination continues to increase, there are more providers offering their services.

Like mediation, there is no regulatory body that licenses or oversees parenting coordinators so there is a wide range in the qualifications of individuals offering this service. The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) Guidelines for Parenting Coordination specify the qualifications a parenting coordinator should have and describes the general process. AFCC Guidelines recommend that parenting coordinators should be licensed mental health professionals or lawyers experienced in family law who are trained and experienced family mediators with advanced training in child development, family systems, and parenting coordination. In some states, mediators are licensed but that is not the case in Canada. Although the AFCC Guidelines describe the aspects of the parenting coordination process consistent with best practices, there is considerable variation in the way each parenting coordinator (PC) chooses to facilitate that process.

Parenting Coordination often includes arbitration, which allows the parenting coordinator (PC) to make decisions when parents are unable to resolve an issue. This ability to make decisions is specified under the Arbitration Act of Alberta but not all PCs arbitrate to the same extent. The way the parenting coordination process is managed exists on a continuum with some PCs emphasizing education and mediation techniques to assist the parents in reaching their own solutions on one end and at the other end, PCs who primarily make decisions through arbitration. Generally, mental health professionals, including psychologists who are parenting coordinators tend to emphasize parent education and parent-created solutions.

When choosing a parenting coordinator to work with you and your co-parenting partner, make sure you understand the training and experience that an individual has as well as the process that the practitioner has developed and follows to ensure you have the best person to work with your family.

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