Are you unable to have peace with your co-parent? Need a referee? I am one of the most experienced Parenting Coordinators in the Province. Bringing peace to you and your children requires commitment on all parts and expert support but it can be done!
Parenting coordination is helpful for only the most high conflict of parents. But for the children in those families it can be transformative.
People often worry about the costs of Parenting Coordination. I use a contract which stipulates that the person who unreasonably causes the conflict assumes more of the costs. If you follow the agreements we make (even in this process most of the decision making is by agreement with me guiding you as to how to stay child-centered) and contain inter-parental hostility it will bring peace to your children and be significantly more affordable than court.
An Update for Family Law Professionals on Parent Coordination One Year Out.
The provisions of the Family Law Act governing Parent Coordinators came into effect almost a year ago. I write with a brief update from the field. As many of you know I have worked as a PC for 5 years now. Here are some key lessons:
1. Parent Coordination is only for those clients who cannot rise above the conflicts that either caused or exacerbated their divorce. Sometimes it is only one of the parents. Many people are dysfunctional in this relationship but perfectly civil in others. You may really like your client. I certainly like almost all my PC clients. But the nature of the adversarial system is that if you have clients who have been through more than 3 hearings, this legacy is likely to impair their ability to co-parent peaceably.
2. Different families require different approaches. The PC process must be client responsive and change as the family changes. A tiny minority of parents will need to work directly with me for the entire 2 years. Most will succeed in transitioning to working with a child specialist advisor, using the PC as back up if their discussions fail to generate agreement. Many will need still less intervention as they learn to apply new skills and gain confidence. Some clients need a lot of help understanding that I am not “biased against them” if I make a decision they don’t like. Attention, empathy and respect are needed then and always.
3. Most families benefit from having the PC heavily involved at the start negotiating structure. I teach them how to send effective emails, how to behave at transitions, how to raise complaints and how to respond. We iron out the important irritants that have dogged the relationship. At the beginning we meet frequently. We set protocols that allow parents to gain experience sorting things out on their own but with a place to turn. Once they can see that they are no longer alone, they tend to calm. The ones who do not are held to account. Happily, even they often calm when this happens.
4. In many cases it is then possible to involve a mental health professional who can work on changing the dynamic with the parents while they solve emerging problems. For example, one client couple of mine is working with a psychologist to solve scheduling problems while they learn how to understand and change negative overrides to positive.
5. I have had PC cases with very troubled parents who never calmed. I have had others who calmed after the first 2 weeks and were able to navigate alone for months at a time. Still others used my services a lot at first but then did not need to come back. When I asked a well respected UVic based child psychologist how to evaluate the work, he explained that if children have even a brief period of suspension of hostilities between their parents, this experience is so profound, it will remain a desirable norm, for the rest of their lives. I can report that in each and every family with which I have been involved as a PC, the children have had at least that short period of respite.
6. I can also report that with the few parents who have ended up back in court, judges have done me the honor of reading and commenting favourably on my Determinations when they have had them. Their Decisions have aligned.
7. There are 2 common and understandable concerns about entering into a PC agreement.
a. Intrusion and consequent loss of control.
a. Intrusion: It is necessary for parents to prioritize their children’s need for peace between them over their belief that their decisions are best for the children. The data is clear. Children need peace more than they need either parent to be right (absent outright violence of course). Sometimes the real concern is that a parent wants sole decision-making. However this is not a reality of life for co-parents. When one must share decision-making, it is better to have oversight than be left alone to deal with someone with whom you have a toxic, hostile relationship. The good news is that a competent PC process will be only as intrusive as it needs to be. The more that can be negotiated, the less need there is for my services.
b. Cost. It is misleading to quote averages. Some people will spend a lot and some very little. It is entirely dependent on the clients. My contract offers the solace of knowing that I have the power to allocate costs depending on who causes the need for my intervention. Since the one who causes the problem pays the bill, things often calm quickly. I have solved the problem of having the peacemaker forced to remain in the process even when the other parent stops paying, so I have been able to reduce my security deposit substantially and can be confident that one parent need not be “held to ransom.” If parents can use me only as a “backstop” and primarily work with a child specialist, costs may be lower than my fees for a single day of mediation. In no case have parents spent anything like the amount they would have spent in court over the same issues.
For a sample of a Parenting Coordination Contract, see here.
For some additional materials for parents, see here.
For a sample court order for a judge to order Parent Coordination see here
For information about Parenting Coordination services (click here)
Patricia uses the leading work in the field to inform her advice. You can read some of the best about
Link to High Conflict Institute
Link to Healthy Parent