Bar News - February 13, 2009
Parenting Coordination: Frequently Asked Questions
By: John Cameron and Honey Hastings
Q: What is Parenting Coordination?
It is a new alternative dispute resolution process in which a qualified impartial professional assists separated or divorced parents to resolve issues pertaining to their parenting plan and to help them implement their parenting plan. This can include: identifying disputed issues; reducing misunderstandings; clarifying priorities; exploring possibilities for problem solving; developing methods of collaboration in parenting; developing a parenting plan; and aiding parties in complying with the courtís order regarding parenting issues. Parenting Coordination helps the parents avoid repeated trips to court over parenting issues.
Q. What are the benefits of Parenting Coordination?
Parenting Coordination offers a much better way of resolving parenting plan issues than returning to court; the resolution comes much faster than waiting for a court date and then the court decision. The Parenting Coordinator educates the parents about the harm to the children of hostility between parents, mediates issues as they arise, and if the parents are unable to resolve issues other than allocation of parenting time, makes the decision.
Q: What does Parenting Coordination provide that mediation, therapy, and other services for families do not provide?
Parenting Coordination is a long-term success-oriented process for divorced or separated parents whose relationship continues to be hostile.
The Parenting Coordinator will work with others involved with the family, including mental health experts, health care personnel, social services, education and legal professionals, as well as extended family, stepparents and the children. The Parenting Coordinator may make recommendations for outside services, such as counseling, that the Parenting Coordinator may determine are needed.
Parenting Coordination is a solution oriented process. It helps parents work together for the good of their children rather than fighting each other. Parenting Coordination provides an opportunity for parents to develop an ability to parent their children in a healthy, constructive way rather than to perpetuate a conflict that places their children in the parentsí war zone.
Q. What are the characteristics of families who could benefit from parenting coordination?
The parents are having frequent disputes about issues such as the parenting schedule, exchange times and locations, extracurricular activities, education choices, and medical decisions. They may have gone back to court several times since the divorce. Some of these families may be called "high conflict"
Q. What background and training is required of parenting coordinators?
Parenting coordinators need an advanced degree in law, psychology, social work, or counseling and experience with "high conflict families." They must complete a two-day training in parenting coordination and also mediator training. The NH Parenting Coordinator Handbook provides guidelines for parenting coordinator qualifications which specify a family-experienced background, as well as specialized training in mediation in addition to parenting coordination.
Q: How is Parenting Coordination typically conducted?
The Parenting Coordinator will typically meet with the parents, individually and/or jointly. The parentsí concerns will be identified, the family situation will be assessed with the aid of court orders and documents, and a course of action will be identified, including the setting of specific goals for resolution of conflicting issues. E-mails and phone calls are used to assist the parentsí work toward the goals. Additional individual or joint meetings may be scheduled and other people with information may be contacted.
Q. Can a Parenting Coordinator have another role in helping the family, such as a guardian ad litem, a mediator, a therapist or the like?
A Parenting Coordinator cannot serve in dual roles, such as a GAL, a divorce mediator, a psychotherapist, a lawyer for either parent or the children, or a visitation supervisor involved with the family. This prohibition applies before, during, and after service as Parenting Coordinator. For example, the therapist for the child may not be appointed as Parenting Coordinator. Also, after serving as Parenting Coordinator, the person may not become the guardian ad litem.
Q. What research is available on the effectiveness of Parenting Coordination?
Parenting Coordination is a relatively new dispute resolution process with the research just beginning to be conducted. Studies since 1994 have found that with the services of a Parenting Coordinator, court appearances in the cases studied were reduced by up to 90 percent If this reduction in court appearances can be correlated to a reduction in conflict between parents, then Parenting Coordination can be seen to have an ameliorating effect on the well-researched and proven fact that children exposed to conflict in the home are four times
Q. How can I get more information about parenting coordination?
The PCANH has compiled a Parenting Coordination Handbook that is available from its website (www.pcanh.org) The PCANH website also has links to other sites with Parenting Coordination information.
Q. What is PCANH?
The Parenting Coordinatorís Association of New Hampshire is a non-profit interdisciplinary organization dedicated to fostering the understanding and use of parenting coordination and to supporting professionals who serve as parenting coordinators.
John Cameron is a parenting coordinator, lawyer, and co-president of Parenting Coordinatorsí Association of NH (PCANH). Honey Hastings is a Parenting Coordinator, lawyer, and PCANH Board member.