- Are you struggling to develop a new co-parenting relationship with the co-parent of your minor children?
- Are your children exhibiting signs of stress during the period of time that your family is facing a transition?
- Has a new step-parent or significant other raised new difficulties in what was once a delicately balanced and working co-parenting relationship?
- Are you and your children’s co-parent struggling to decide what should be the new Parenting Plan or how to implement the plan that has been ordered by the Court?
- Has the Court determined that you or the co-parent of the minor children are unable or unwilling to protect the children from the stresses of the litigation embroiling the family?
- Have you or your children’s co-parent requested to relocated outside of the area of your parenting plan and need assistance developing a new parenting plan that will work over a long distance?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may find that a Parenting Coordinator may be helpful.
Divorce does not have to be harmful to children. Many parents find a way to peacefully transition from one to two households. These parents work cooperatively to raise healthy and happy children. But all studies show that high conflict in a divorce or following the divorce process is harmful to the children.
The more peaceful the transition to separate households and the more parents can work towards co-parenting the better the outcome for the children. This is obviously the goal, but it often takes time to attain a new co-parenting relationship. The emotional turmoil of the divorce often carries over to the post divorce relationship making co-parenting difficult and affecting the welfare of the minor children.
What is Parenting Coordination?
Parenting Coordination is a relatively new form of alternative dispute resolution that brings the parents together to work with a highly trained and skilled professional to develop a new co-parenting relationship. During the transition, the parents will often work on parallel parenting while bringing a sense of calm to the parenting relationships. As a Parenting Coordinator I can act as a buffer for the communication between the parents while working on developing appropriate communication skills. Children must be shielded from any parental alienation and my role as the Parenting Coordinator’s is to ensure that the children are allowed a loving relationship with both parents.
I work with parents to learn new communication skills and priority setting skills to reduce conflict within the family. Children should never be caught in the middle and I work to ensure that the rights of the children are respected. As a Parenting Coordinator I am appointed by the Court to work with the family through the period of high conflict. I always view my job as to only be as involved as is necessary to transition to a healthy co-parenting relationship. I often use special technology such as computer programs for communication to eliminate abusive communications and bring a sense of calm. I will also monitor the Court orders related to the Parenting Plan to ensure that the parties understand what is expected of them.
It is important to understand that as Parenting Coordinator I am acting as a Third Party Neutral and not as an advocate for either parent. I am not permitted to provide legal advice to any party in the litigation. I will often work with legal counsel, if available, to help the parties develop and implement their parenting plan. I am also not a mental health expert and do not provide counseling to the parties nor the children. Again, I will often work with mental health experts if one is assigned to the case or retained by the parties. The services of a mental health expert is often extremely helpful for the children to provide them with a safe, confidential place to process their struggles with the family transition.
Parent Coordination is governed by Florida Statute 61.125. The Florida Supreme Court is in the process of approving additional rules that will apply to the process. The Parenting Coordinator is not a social investigator. I do not make reports to the Court regarding substantial changes to the parenting plan except in very extreme circumstances involving the safety or welfare of the children. I also do not address financial issues in the parenting coordination process.
How Do You Obtain a Parenting Coordinator?
If you beleive that a Parenting Coordinator would be helpful in your case you and your co-parent can agree to the appointment of a professional. Our local jurisdiction has a list of qualified Parenting Coordinators and I am proud to be included on the list. (Click here for a list of qualified professionals in the 12th Judicial Circuit.) If you cannot agree to the appointment of a Parenting Coordinator, you can request that the Court appoint a professional and the Judge will decide if a Parenting Coordinator is necessary. The Order appointing the Parenting Coordinator must also detail how the professional will be paid. Often each party is responsible for one half of the cost, although in some cases the costs may be divided in a different proportional share. See my Resource Section of a sample of the Order Appointing Parenting Coordinator.
How I Approach Parenting Coordination.
As a parent I know that raising children can be both rewarding and incredibly stressful. As a lawyer, I know that addressing the problems of co-parenting in court is the least efficient and most anxiety causing recourse available. Placing your children in the middle of litigation is both harmful to the children and destructive to the long term ability to establish a health co-parenting relationship. It is also almost impossible to obtain hearing time in front of a Judge or Magistrate in a timely manner to address the daily needs of parenting. Even if you can obtain a hearing in front of the Court, the resolution will often leave one or both parents disappointed and feeling unheard.
I consider education to be the most important tool in my tool box as a Parenting Coordinator. I work with parents to learn new skills and means of communication to raise healthy, loved children. I am an advocate for the children’s rights to have a healthy relationship with the parents as determined by Court order. I also work with parenting educators, mental health counselors, anger management experts and other professionals in the area to ensure that the needs of each family is met.
If there are issues of domestic violence you may need to address these with the Court prior to the appointment of a Parenting Coordinator. However, be aware that I have worked with parents that had in place Restraining Orders for Protection Against Domestic Violence through the use of individual meetings and, if permitted by the Court, Skype communication.