Does A Parent Coordinator Help In High Conflict Custody Cases?

In high conflict child custody cases, it is often recommended by professionals including lawyers, judges, social workers, psychologists that a Parent Coordinator (“PC”) is appointed to assist these high conflict parents in reaching agreements outside the court process.  

What is a Parent Coordinator?

Parenting Coordinators are specially trained professionals whose work focuses on helping parents manage their parenting plan, improve communication, and resolve disputes. The role of a parenting coordinator will vary based on what a family needs, what the court may stipulate and state law.

A PC can be a mental health or legal professional. The PC role is highly prescribed in guidelines and sometimes by law, statute or rule, with a clear scope of authority and required training to practice by state law.  

Different States Have Different Rules Regarding Appointing PC´s, parenting Coordinator is a relatively new practice used in some states to manage ongoing issues in high-conflict child custody and visitation cases by professional psychologist or a lawyer assigned by the court or agreed to by the parents. 

In Florida, in any action in which a judgment or order has been sought or entered adopting, establishing, or modifying a parenting plan, except for a domestic violence proceeding and upon agreement of the parties, the court’s own motion, or the motion of a party, the court may appoint a parenting coordinator.

When is Appointing a PC Not Appropiate?

The APA (American Psychological Association), advises that parents who have a history of prior or current domestic violence, intimate partner violence (IPV), may present substantial safety risks or power imbalances, and may not be appropriate for parent coordinating.

What is the Difference between ”High Conflict” and ”Domestic Violence”?

The AFCC (Association of Family and Conciliation Courts) published its 2019 “Guidelines for Parent Coordination” developed by its task force on parenting coordination 2017-2019. The Guidelines define “high conflict” parents who are unable to resolve the overwhelming majority, or all, of the disputes that arise between them regarding the health, education, general welfare, and process of training their common children.

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is defined by the AFCC as physically aggressive behaviors involving the intentional use of force with the potential for causing injury, harm, disability, or death and includes, in addition to physical and sexual violence, “coercively controlling behaviors involving harmful conduct that subordinates the will of another through violence, intimidation, intrusiveness, isolation, and/or control”.

When is Using a PC most Successful?

A qualified and trained parent coordinator can be an asset to parents who find it difficult to communicate or work with each other. A parent coordinator can be a successful tool in post custody litigation working with parents.

To the courts: it is a success when it reduces post judgment litigation and contempt motions that use up valuable court resources that could be better used elsewhere.

To the children: there is a financial benefit if money is saved on litigation that can be used for the children’s college education. Less litigation generally means the children are not being torn by the parents to adopt one parent’s position over the other thereby reducing stress on the children and allowing them to love both parents.

To the parents: the PC over time gets to know the family and can assist them to resolve disputes in a more timely manner than motion practice in a court. This in turn can save the parents money on litigation. A PC can also provide helpful resources to assist the family in their community.

Parents must believe that going to court is a last resort. When the parents adopt this thinking, the chance of success working with a PC is highly likely.

Original article by Forbes.