The Benefits of Parenting Coordinators
The negotiation of a parenting plan that will serve as the playbook by which parents will raise their child or children after divorce or separation is rarely, if ever, simple. For two individuals with unique parenting perspectives and priorities, reaching an agreement as to the custodial rights and responsibilities of both parents, as well as the logistics of day-to-day decision-making and allocation of parenting time, can be a nightmare, particularly when those parents are embroiled in a high-conflict legal battle. Even where Two (2) parties do agree upon a parenting plan, reaching such an agreement is only the first step – the real challenge comes in properly utilizing the agreement over the course of its period of effectiveness in a manner which promotes the best interests of the subject children.
Even the best parenting plans cannot thoroughly anticipate and account for every situation that will arise over the lives of the children at issue, and parents often find themselves looking for guidance in interpreting parenting plans and making decisions accordingly long after the finalization of a divorce. For parents who do not always think on the same page, every immediate decision, no matter how small, can easily turn into an enormous battle for control. Where parenting plan playbooks are silent on the issue(s) at stake or subject to multiple interpretations, parties may find themselves hopelessly deadlocked in disagreement.
Instinct frequently drives parents who are embroiled in post-divorce parenting conflicts to reach out to their attorneys for assistance. As an attorney myself, I’ll be the first to admit that this is rarely, if ever, an ideal solution. For one thing, when parenting disagreements are frequent and heated, the repeated involvement of attorneys to settle the score can become fiscally irresponsible or even impossible. Reliance on attorneys in these disputes is likewise impractical to the extent that attorneys represent only the interests of their clients (i.e. the parents), not their children; while we might like to believe that attorneys will naturally gravitate towards decisions which simultaneously serve both client and children, reality rarely plays out so idealistically.
In order to avoid the pitfalls of having your attorney on speed dial to resolve post-divorce parenting disputes, consider working with a parenting coordinator to get the job done. Parenting coordinators are trained professionals (generally in the mental health or therapeutic field) whose focus is on helping co-parents resolve disputes and implement their parenting plan playbooks in a manner tailored to suit the best interests of the subject child or children. While the roles of parenting coordinators vary based upon the terms of their engagement (whether by agreement of parents or court order), parenting coordinators are always situated to work with both parents while maintaining a primary focus on the needs and interests of their children.
In some cases, parenting coordinators monitor parents to ensure that they are complying with their parenting plan(s) post-divorce, and hold themselves out as a resource for dispute resolution. In other cases, parenting coordinators have the authority to make individual decisions for parents in the event of a deadlocked dispute. The scope of each parenting coordinator’s authority will be specifically set forth in the parenting plan or court order which appoints the parenting coordinator to serve in that role. Thus, it’s important to advocate for the appointment of a parenting coordinator, as well as the scope of the roles and duties you believe the parenting coordinator should perform, when you’re negotiating your parenting plan or by making a request for the appointment of a parenting coordinator to the judge during trial. If your agreed-upon parenting plan or final court order contains no provision for the use of a parenting coordinator, then you will have no means to compel your co-parent to utilize one down the road.
The benefits of parenting coordinators extend beyond the financial savings that necessarily come with limiting the role of attorneys in post-divorce dispute resolution. As explained above, unlike attorneys, parenting coordinators are specifically trained and retained to serve the best interests of children, not their parents. So, to the extent parents trust the abilities of their designated parenting coordinator, the parenting coordinator can be a valuable tool in reducing stress for both parents and children. Utilizing a parenting coordinator will eliminate – at least to some extent – the frequency of arguments and conflict between you and your co-parent, promoting an atmosphere of peace between you and your co-parent which will enable your children to thrive. Sometimes, co-parents actually find their communication abilities improving over time as they work with a parenting coordinator, thereby reducing the frequency and extent of conflicts altogether.
Ultimately, parenting coordinators often play a valuable role in assisting co-parents with the transition from a single family household to Two (2) separate households. Especially in high conflict cases, the use of parenting coordinators is a proven tool for efficient communication and avoiding the stress and expense associated with post-divorce disputes regarding custody. If you have additional questions about parenting coordinators or are interested in amending your current custody order to provide for the use of a parenting coordinator, contact Kimberly Coleman Law today for a consultation.