Alternatives to Court: Parenting Coordination.

AuthorBoyd, John-Paul
PositionColumns: Family Law

This is the last column in LawNow's series on resolving family law disputes out of court. The other columns in this series include Sarah Dargatz's articles on collaborative negotiation and mediation, and my article on arbitration. In this column, I'm going to talk about parenting coordination. This is a child-centred process that combines elements of both mediation and arbitration and is used to resolve disagreements between separated parents about their children.

Parenting coordination was developed in California in the 1980s in response to certain family law cases that seemed to be in court all the time, even after they had gone through trial. The people involved in these cases were making applications to adjust the parenting arrangements for their children several times each year, at a huge expense to them and a huge expense to the court. A number of people working in the justice system came up with the idea of taking these conflicts out of the court system and having them resolved privately by a lawyer or a mental health professional, like a social worker or a psychologist, working directly with the parents.

The idea turned out to be a success, and parenting coordination began to spread through the United States and Canada. Today, parenting coordination is very well established in this country. Groups of professionals providing parenting coordination services exist in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Nova Scotia.

Parenting coordination is for people who already have a parenting plan in place, whether the parenting plan is in the form of a separation agreement or a court order. The parenting coordinator's basic job is to help people implement their parenting plan and resolve disagreements about their parenting plan as they come up.

Parenting coordination does not help people with temporary, or "interim," parenting plans because of the potential for the work of the parenting coordinator to interfere with the decisions the court may make, and for the decisions of the court to interfere with the work of the parenting coordinator. Parenting coordination is independent of court processes and helps with final parenting plans only.

Parenting coordinators can be lawyers who have special training in certain aspects of psychology, including communication skills, childhood developmental psychology and high-conflict personalities. They can also be mental health professionals who have special training in certain aspects of the law, including...

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