J. Parenting Coordination

Author:Julien D. Payne - Marilyn A. Payne

Page 170

Pursuant to the initiative of an interdisciplinary group of legal and mental health professionals in Denver, Colorado, in the early 1990s, a process known as "parenting coordination" has evolved in several American states and has spread into Canada.69Parenting coordination usually involves mental health professionals assisting parents who encounter ongoing conflict after custody and access issues have already been the subject of a parenting agreement or court order. Parenting coordinators usually counsel and advise parents on how to develop a more positive co-parenting relationship that focuses on the children’s needs. They may be authorized to mediate disputes arising between the parents and, if the parents cannot settle a dispute, to assume the role of an arbitrator and issue a final decision on the dispute.70It is customary for parents to agree to med-arb being used to resolve relatively minor disputes that will not fundamentally change the character of an existing parenting agreement or court order. For example, med-arb may be agreed upon by the parents to resolve issues relating to the children’s extracurricular activities, vacation plans, preschool and after-school child care, existing communication problems, pick-up and drop-off arrangements, or minor

Page 171

changes to the parenting schedule. Fundamental issues, such as a change of custody, extra-provincial relocation of the children, or substantial changes in the parenting schedule usually fall outside the authority of parenting coordinators.71Although parents may delegate such functions as they see fit to parenting coordinators72and some Canadian courts may refer consenting parents to a court-appointed parenting coordinator, a court has no jurisdiction to delegate its decision-making authority to a parenting co-ordinator unless there is statutory authority to do so,73as is the case under the British Columbia Family Law Act.74In the absence of explicit statutory authority, a distinction must be drawn between the judicial appointment of a parenting coordinator or assessor as a facilitator and the appointment of a parenting coordinator as a final decision maker who forecloses access to the court. The former appointment would appear to be legally permissible but the latter is not.75An order for parenting coordination should be made after a final order has been made establishing a parenting plan. It is not the role of a parenting coordinator to devise a parenting plan...

To continue reading