As an extensively trained Parent Coordinator Trainer, I help both separating and divorced parents negotiate with each other over disputed practical matters involving their children. Although I am also trained in divorce mediation and often use this skill to work toward agreement, that is not what Parent Coordination is all about.
High-conflict divorce places major stress on children, who are often caught in the middle of the conflict, even as they are making the difficult adjustment to life in two separate households. Research shows that this stress can have lasting negative impacts on children. Parenting Coordination (PC) reduces stress on children by helping parents to minimize conflict in shared areas of responsibility. Shared responsibility may be outlined by extensive lists in separation decrees, but often without clear enough boundaries, definition, or shared interpretations of the words. An ex-partner’s behavior with regard to the children may not meet obligations. And, of course, unforeseen disagreements can develop as the children grow.
Parenting Coordination is a neutral forum to work out clear and mutual terms of agreement avoiding stress for the child. Common areas of focus in PC are:
- School and homework expectations
- Diet and health practices
- Scheduling and transport responsibilities
- Drop off and pick up locations
- Payment for parties, camp, or dental work that has not been pre-agreed upon
- New adult love relationship rights and restrictions in the home when the child is visiting
- Remarriage and stepchildren not contemplated in separation agreements
- Vacation times and lengths that contradict weekly visiting schedules
- Grandparent issues
- Time and number of communications the child is allowed to have between households
- The child’s use of a cell phone
Importantly, but not always clear and agreed upon in separation or divorce decrees, is the fact that two households for a co-parented child raise issues for each parent about their own rights of privacy and autonomy. Children are likely to talk about their experiences while at the “other” household. This often makes parents feel out of control, even violated. As can a lawyer’s letter on behalf of one or the other parent. Again, Parenting Coordination is a neutral forum to help set boundaries without compromising the two households' facts of life.
PC can be costly in the event that compromise is not possible, but decisions must be finalized. In addition, it works to reduce stress faster and with less expense for each parent by bypassing litigation and court appearances. Parents attend joint meetings which the children typically do not attend, but the process is always focused on the children.
I am trained as a PC by the Cooperative Parenting Institute, and have completed advanced training with the Cooperative Parenting Institute and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts. I’ve received divorce mediation training by the New Jersey Association of Professional Mediators. The Parenting Coordination approach combines family law and mental health. Unlike therapy, it is a non-confidential process. You and your co-parent may retain my services on your own, at any stage of your separation or divorce. However, if I am court-appointed as your PC, as I work with you, I will work under the auspices of a Court Order instructing my Appointment. I will need to see court orders if they have been issued for PC before we begin working together.