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Parenting coordination is a child-focused dispute resolution process for separated parents designed to try and minimise conflict. Parenting Coordinators assist families who may be struggling to implement agreed arrangements for their children from a court order or parenting agreement. It is most often used where there is high conflict between the parents but who wish to improve and develop a positive parenting relationship.
Parenting Coordinators undergo specific training and often come from a legal, mental health or social work background. As such, they are equipped with experience and knowledge of working with separated families. They are a neutral and unbiased third party with a focus on what is best for your children. A parenting coordinator has a number of roles when working with separated families which include mediator, educator, mentor, supporter and decision-maker.
They support parents to develop skills and tools to assist in their communications and co-parenting and sometimes they will make decisions where the parents simply cannot resolve a dispute. Importantly, they will listen to both parents points of view and help them work together positively to manage the practical arrangements for their children; helping them to understand the effects of parental conflict on their children amongst other things.
A parenting coordinator is appointed by agreement with the parents. The parenting coordinator will speak to each parent and assess whether the parenting coordination is suitable for their family. A formal contract is entered into which clarifies the work that will be undertaken and will include an authorisation (by the parents) for the parenting coordinator to make binding decisions if necessary. From then on, the parents meet with the parenting coordinator as regularly as may be required either jointly or individually. The parenting coordinator will also consider if the children should be involved with the process and also meet with the parenting coordinator.
There is no set term for the parenting coordinator to work with a family but it is important to ensure that the family are given support for a sustained period. This provides the parents with the best opportunity of making long term changes.
During the initial stages, the parents will discuss the immediate and long term goals for the process and identify the challenges they have and how new strategies could be developed to help with those challenged.
After those initial discussions the parents, with the help of the parenting coordinator, will continue to identify what tools and skills will help to resolve conflict and give them opportunities to practice using those tools and skills. Progress will be monitored, along with how any changes have affected the children and the family dynamics.
The parenting coordinator will support the parents in implementing their parenting agreement or child arrangements order which might involve agreeing on minor changes or dealing with ambiguities or misinterpretations.
The parenting coordinator will make decisions for the parents where they are unable to reach an agreement. For example, the child arrangements order, or parenting agreement may say that the children split their school holidays between the parents, but they are unable to agree on the precise pattern of how that might happen.
Studies published in other countries in which parenting coordination has been available for some time show that parents engaging with the process have better relationships and find that they make fewer court application.
Our highly experienced family lawyers can work alongside parent coordinators in order to reduce conflict between parents. Please contact us to discuss your family law issues, we specialise on advising you on all of your options – and there are more than you might think when it comes to avoiding the traditional court process.