June 27, 2022
Making Lemonade When Life Serves Up Lemons: Could Parenting Co-Ordination Be An Ingredient?
Need a recipe to assist some of your clients make lemonade when they feel they are served a life of lemons?
Following a parenting plan during and after a divorce or separation can be difficult for some. A parenting agreement has been developed or has been settled. Now what? Have the conflicts with the other parent regarding the children suddenly stopped just because there is an agreement? How about communication; does signing an agreement suddenly make it so that the parents magically start to effectively communicate? Likely not. Many parents have no real idea what shared parenting is much less how to incorporate it in their day-to-day lives. Quite often it is rarely the big, life-altering issues that cause the greatest amount of disputes between parents.
As practitioners in family law, working with this group can be challenging. How can we help them develop resilience and move on from from constantly turning to the lawyer every time there is a minor dispute involving their children?
Can a parenting coordinator help?
A parenting coordinator (PC) may be able to help your clients with day-to-day co-parenting issues as well as ultimately teach them how to make decisions together and reduce daily conflict over ordinary decisions. This assists parent to establish and maintain a healthy co-parenting relationship by reducing parental conflict and the risk factors that influence a child’s post-divorce adjustment. PCs can reduce and often eliminate much of the lawyer involvement that often occurs with the ongoing parental conflict, saving the parents time and money.
How is parenting co-ordination different from mediation?
A mediator’s work is often completed in a closed, confidential way. They cannot provide detailed education and recommendations to the parties. Their job often ends when the agreement is signed or the parties fail to agree. The Parenting Coordinator role is different. They have been specifically trained to work with a family before, during and after they have reached their final Court Orders. A PC helps to assess the parenting issues, educate the parties about the impact of separation on their children, manages and monitors the parenting plan and ongoing potential conflict, and provides recommendations when parents cannot agree. They may need to speak to a variety of professionals with whom the the family has been involved in order to design ongoing interventions, or to make further professional referrals.
How does it work?
Parents voluntarily engage with, or can be ordered to work with a PC for a given period – usually several months, or up to a year or two. PCs work with the parents as and when the issues arise. This may be ad hoc and outside of normal appointment times. The benefit to the family is that the issues are addressed immediately they occur.
Additionally, there are regular sessions with the PC. Through education, ongoing dispute resolution and case management, the family’s progress, post-separation, is monitored to assist the parents to ensure the best possible outcomes for their children, offering them the opportunity to grow in home environments free from the devastating stress of being caught in the middle of parental conflict.
Does Parenting coordination have an established track record?
The process is well-established in North America and Canada with most States licensing specially-trained professionals and mandating parenting co-ordination for high-conflict parents through court orders. The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) have had a parenting coordination taskforce and Guidelines in place since 2005. Parenting coordination may be a consideration for clients who are struggling to develop resilience and effective co-parenting after divorce, separation and family transition. It may be part of a recipe to assist them to make lemonade when they feel that life has served them lemons.
© Anne Purcell PhD, Principal Resolution Partners and Co-founder of Parenting Coordination Australia. This article was originally Published in CrossRoads Magazine Issue 3 2016 https://bwbfamilylaw.com.au/crossroads/