Parent Coordination is a form of dispute resolution that goes beyond mediation, psychotherapy, and other forms of resolving conflicts between co-parents. Parent Coordination is a child-focused alternative conflict resolution process. Parent Coordination centers around the formulation, implementation, and enforcement of a parenting plan. One of the distinguishing features of Parent Coordination is that the Parenting Coordinator “PC” is often given some decision making power by the court. Parent Coordinators are asked, on occasion, to issue “PC Recommendations” which the parents are to follow.
The overall objective of parent coordination is to help high-conflict parents implement their parenting plans, to resolve conflicts regarding their children and the parenting plan promptly, and to protect and sustain safe, healthy, and meaningful parent-child relationships.
Parent coordinators are trained in family mediation and are either lawyers or mental health professionals. All PCs have extensive experience and training in working with high-conflict relationships. In Oregon, all Parent Coordinators must be appointed by the judge; you need a judge’s permission.
Parent Coordinator’s Role
The concept dates back to the early 1990s. The Guidelines for Parenting Coordination developed by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts’ (AFCC) Task Force on Parenting Coordination describes parenting coordination as “a child-focused alternative dispute resolution process in which a mental health or legal professional with mediation training and experience assists high-conflict parents to implement their parenting plan by facilitating the resolution of their disputes promptly.”
The goal of the Parent Coordination process is to assist parents in following their parenting plan; resolving conflicts quickly and at a lower cost.
Parenting Coordinators address day-to-day parenting issues.
Parent Coordinators may monitor written exchanges of parent communications and suggest productive forms of communication that limit conflict. PCs may assist with implementing minor changes in, or clarification of, parenting time schedules or conditions. Parenting Coordinators are often asked to address child custody disputes related to holiday and special event scheduling, transportation disputes, disputes over the child’s activities and the costs of extracurricular activities. Other common disputes brought to a Parenting Coordinator involve conflict at parenting time exchanges, school placement and homework problems, medical issues, teenager communication issues, discipline disputes, step parent-child disputes, and religious observance and education disputes, as well as a broad range of other issues.
Parenting Coordinators can also help parents understand the developmental needs of their children and teach problem-solving strategies. The goal is to help parents learn how to communicate more effectively and thus avoid conflicts that cause them to return to court.
Parenting Coordinators are often empowered to make decisions when the parents are not able to resolve disputes on their own, to the extent described in the court order, or make reports or recommendations to the court for further consideration.
A Parenting Coordinator may talk directly with each parent and their attorneys. Parent Coordinators typically have access to everybody involved with family members such as school officials and teachers, physical and mental health care providers, the children, extended family members, stepparents (or person acting in that role) and anyone else the Parenting Coordinator determines may have a significant role in resolving the conflict.