The Role of Parenting Coordinator’s in Family Disputes
Sharing custody of a child is much more than simply figuring out when and where to exchange physical custody. Having to compromise and cooperate on such personal and sensitive issues can lead some parents to disagree over the best way to raise a child and/or the sharing of parenting time and decision-making responsibilities. The more conflict that exists between parents, the more negatively children are usually affected, and these effects can last long-term. When parents are able to work out disagreements about their child without court intervention, the success of the outcome is usually higher – not to mention avoids the full calendars all judges have, which means parents will not have to wait significant periods to attend a hearing and receive a decision. An alternative that focuses on the needs of the child and tools to help parents adopt better co-parenting strategies is parenting coordination. This alternative dispute resolution option is less adversarial than litigation, and gives a larger voice to the needs of the child, which can be lost in the courtroom setting. A discussion of how this option works, and the benefits it can provide to parents locked in conflict, will follow below.
When Parenting Coordination Is Ordered
Parenting coordination is designed to provide a forum to resolve high-conflict child custody disputes or any child-related matter between parents that occur during or after a divorce. Essentially, when parents are having difficulty communicating, or seem to be putting their child in the middle of disputes, parenting coordination may be a viable option. This process may be instigated by the court’s order, an agreement by the parties, or upon the motion of one party. Note that if there is a history of domestic violence, a court will not refer a couple to parenting coordination without the consent of both parties, though given the close proximity and degree of cooperation this method requires, parenting coordination may not be the best option in these situations.
How It Is Conducted
A parenting coordinator will hold sessions with both parties present, and try to facilitate an agreement. Typically, the parenting coordinator simply provides recommendations on possible solutions, but the parents, along with guidelines and a grant of authority by a court, can allow the coordinator to make limited decisions on their behalf. Primarily, they are present to assist with communication and provide resolution options. They also ensure the parents follow the agreed-upon parenting plan, and that the child is shielded from parental conflict. Given the pivotal role these individuals play in the outcome of hotly disputed matters, only those individuals with the proper background can serve in the capacity. In Florida, a parenting coordinator must possess one of the following qualifications:
- An attorney in good standing with the Florida Bar;
- A certified family law mediator;
- A licensed physician certified in neurology or psychiatry; or
- A mental health professional.
In addition, the coordinator must have three years of practice experience, complete a family law mediation program, and attend trainings on issues common between parents in dispute, as well as procedural issues.
The parenting coordinator is uniquely situated to help parents struggling to communicate and agree on child-related issues by providing an environment and manner that is more conducive to compromise, as well as a providing a child-focused lens through which to view the situation – a perspective parents battling for rights can lose. Further, this process is confidential, with a few limited exceptions, which can be a major advantage for families who highly value privacy. Finally, helping parents to bridge communication gaps is likely to prevent future conflict, and provide the child with a more stable relationship with both parents.
Contact an Orlando Family Lawyer
Resolving disagreement with a former spouse or partner will never be easy, but necessary if you share children. The attorneys at the Donna Hung Law Group understand the challenges divorced parents face when trying to form and comply with parenting plans, and can assist you with finding a satisfactory outcome. Contact the Orlando law firm at (407) 999-0099 for a consultation.