In some families, following separation and even after a final court order or agreement has been made, there remains high levels of conflict with respect to parenting matters.
Parenting coordination is one type of dispute resolution process which helps separated parents resolve parenting disputes without going to court. This is a process that focusses on the child, with an ultimate goal of reducing conflict.
Parenting coordinators are neutral decision-makers who assist parents in resolving day to day conflicts about parenting issues. They may be family law lawyers, counsellors, social workers or psychologists and have training in both mediation and arbitration. Parents who are thinking about retaining a parenting coordinator should consider whether a lawyer or mental health professional may be better suited to their family and the issues they are dealing with.
Parenting coordination is intended for parents who already have some form of parenting plan in place, although how detailed the plan is will vary. The parenting plan may be set out in a court order or a written agreement between the parents. Parenting coordinators will help implement the parenting plan and resolve conflicts that arise around the plan. The parenting coordinator can assist parents do this in a variety of ways, including:
- identifying the issues in dispute;
- interpreting the parenting plan to reduce misunderstandings;
- clarifying the parenting plan by including details to minimize ambiguities;
- creating guidelines for communication; and
- developing protocols and problem solving mechanisms to help resolve potential conflicts in the future.
When an issue arises, parenting coordinators will first try to assist parents resolve the matter by reaching a negotiated settlement through consensus building. If, however, the parents cannot reach a settlement by consensus, the parenting coordinator has the authority to make a binding decision (a “determination”) on parenting matters within their jurisdiction. When making a decision, a parenting coordinator must only consider the best interests of the child. In the mediation process, unlike parenting coordination, a neutral mediator can assist parties in reaching an agreement by facilitating discussions and encouraging compromise, however, a mediator cannot make a decision if the parties do not agree to a resolution of the issue.
A parenting coordinator has the authority to make decisions with respect to a number of parenting matters, including:
- adjustment or clarification of parenting time schedules;
- details around transitions or exchanges of children (including time, location and transportation specifics);
- childcare arrangements;
- education-related matters (including tutoring, special education programs, choice of school);
- participation in extracurricular activities;
- provision of routine medical, dental or other health care to a child;
- parenting time during vacations and special occasions; and
- discipline of children.
A parenting coordinator may also address other issues specified by the court or as agreed upon by the parents. However a parenting coordinator cannot make decisions in respect of:
- a change in guardianship or the allocation of parental responsibilities;
- giving parenting time or contact with a child to a person who does not already have parenting time or contact with a child;
- a substantial change to the parenting time with a child; or
- the relocation of a child.
If you have questions about what a parenting coordinator can or cannot assist with, or would like to determine whether a parenting coordinator could be beneficial for your family, please contact Geeta.
If you have questions about other family law issues contact us.
NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Information made available on the Connect Family Law website in any form is for information purposes only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. You should not rely on, or take or fail to take any action, based upon this information. Never disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking legal advice because of something you have read on this website. One of our lawyers would be pleased to discuss any specific legal concerns you may have.