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What is parenting coordination?

Parenting Coordinators are health care professionals who assist parents in implementing terms of a Parenting Agreement or Court Order.

Parenting Coordination is a service for high-conflict couples who are experiencing chronic difficulties in resolving parenting issues between themselves. (Note that we are referring to cases where significant conflicts persist more than 2 years after the separation. Many separating couples exhibit high conflict in the early stages of separation, but usually those issues are resolved either as a result of an agreement or an interim court order.)

True high-conflict couples are different. These couples keep returning to their lawyers with issues that, from the legal standpoint, might seem inconsequential, including vacation plans, Christmas arrangements, pick-up and drop-off issues, children’s activities, or minor adjustments to the parenting schedule. But even when, on the surface, such issues seem relatively minor, there is always a risk that they might escalate to a point of crisis. For example, problems with access may turn into outright denial of access; or issues at pick-up and drop-off times might end up requiring police involvement. Some parents abdicate their responsibilities altogether, as in failing to make important decisions about which school their child should attend, for example.

Traditionally, such clients would turn up at their lawyers’ offices over and over, and sometimes court involvement might be necessary. Parenting Coordinators (PCs) provide an alternative to that route. In the Parenting Coordinator model, chronically high-conflict couples may try to resolve their issues with the assistance of a mental health professional, rather than resorting to litigation.

The basic rationale for the PC model is that couples who are unable to resolve some fairly ordinary parenting issues on their own typically have some underlying emotional, personality, and/or relationship issues that need to be addressed. Simply having lawyers and courts settle issues for them is not necessarily an effective way to help these couples. Unless these couples learn to manage their own issues, they will simply be back as soon as the next crisis happens. We have even found that there are some couples who may never learn to manage completely on their own and may benefit from having a professional on call, so to speak, whom they can contact before issues escalate unduly.

Click here to download the entire article in PDF format

By Marianne Cuhaci, M.S.W., R.S.W.
Social Worker and Family Mediator

Lena K. Jones, B.A., M.A., AccFM (O.A.F.M.)
Family Consultant & Mediator
References

Baris, M.A., Coates, C.A., Duvall, B.B., Garrity, C.B., Johnson, E.T., and LaCrosse, E.R. (2001). Working With High-Conflict Families of Divorce: A Guide For Professionals. New Jersey, London: Jason Aronson Inc.

Garrity, C., and Baris, M. (1994). Caught in the Middle: Protecting the Children of High-Conflict Divorce. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

 
   

Ottawa Lawyer
Barnes Sammon LLP
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Ottawa, Ontario
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Telephone: (613) 594-8000 ext. 260
Fax: 613-235-7578
Email: hgrabowski@barnessammon.ca
Lawyer: Hania E. Grabowski