Obtaining evidence in high conflict parenting disputes, Part 4: parenting coordination.

Author:Boyd, John-Paul

In Part 2 of this series, Sarah Dargatz wrote briefly about parenting coordination, one of the interventions available in family law cases before the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench. In this article, the final part of this series, I will talk about how parenting coordination is used in British Columbia.

It's a bit misleading to talk about parenting coordination in the context of obtaining evidence in high-conflict parenting disputes. That's not what parenting coordination is mainly about. Although parenting coordination can produce evidence, its primary purpose is to help resolve conflicts about the implementation of parenting plans made in an agreement or final order. However, since Sarah mentioned it and since practices vary across Canada, I'll write about it now.

Parenting coordination began in California in 1993 as a court-attached process for high-conflict parents. The Special Master Program, as it was known, was intended to address the needs of the small percentage of separated couples who found themselves caught up in frequent disputes over often insignificant parenting problems, and demanded a disproportionate amount of time before a judge as a result. A special master would be assigned to such parties, to step in when a parenting dispute erupted and to attempt to mediate a solution to the problem. If successful, the parties would avoid another application to court, and the court would be spared the task of hearing it.

Parenting coordination has evolved as it has grown in popularity and spread to other jurisdictions in the United States and Canada. At present, parenting coordination is available in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. In its present form, parenting coordination is a child-oriented dispute resolution process that:

  1. assists with implementing parenting plans; 2. attempts to refocus parents toward the needs and interests of their children; 3. attempts to reduce parental conflict, and improve communication and independent dispute resolution skills; and 4. keeps parents out of court by resolving parenting disputes as they arise, either by the parties' agreement or the decisions of the parenting coordinator. There are differences between how parenting coordination works in Alberta and how it works in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. I'll talk about parenting coordination in British Columbia because the British Columbia process is the one I know best; I was one of the people involved in establishing the BC...

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