Parenting co-ordination is a child-focused dispute resolution process for separated parents, whereby the children’s best interests and well-being remains at the centre of these proceedings throughout.
The idea behind parenting co-ordination is to move clashing families away from repetitive court applications, and to instead handle matters in a way that will reduce and avoid tension. The parenting coordinator will act as a buffer between the parents who have issues communicating, and subsequently keep such disputes away from the court.
The foremost objectives of this parenting coordination process is to support separated parents who find communicating about their children challenging, yet recognise that developing a more positive parenting relationship will improve the child’s wellbeing in several aspects of their life.
This process is going to be most effective where the matters in question focus on smaller issues contained in a parenting plan or order that are continually not being settled – for instance, who the child may spend World Book Day with, or buy the child’s school shoes.
WHO ARE THE PARENTAL COORDINATORS?
This privately funded process is led by a Parenting Coordinator who is a qualified mediator. They will most likely have a professional background as a family lawyer or a professional with experience in working alongside separating families. All parenting coordinators are also qualified and experienced mediators prior to embarking on this in-depth parenting coordination course. Parenting coordinators are neutral third parties and therefore unbiased, although their focus will always remain on the children.
A parenting coordinator can adopt a number of roles. This contrasts from being a coach to support the parents to identify and overcome their negative cycles of communication, to ultimately being a decision maker and implementing a binding determination if a mutual decision is not being met. If a parent fails to comply with these determinations, there is the opportunity to then have this presented to a judge and marked as an order from the court.
WHEN SHOULD YOU USE PARENTAL COORDINATION?
It is recommended that this dispute resolution process is suitable for separated parents who:
- have in place either a parenting agreement or court order and find communicating about child arrangements challenging,
- are aware that this is likely to impact their children’s wellbeing, as well as their own, and
- Wish to explore ways of working together effectively by utilising professional support for the greater good of all individuals involved.
There is strong research evidencing that lower levels of parental conflict have a direct correlation to a better outcome for their children in many aspects of their lives, including socially and educationally.
WHAT DO THE COURTS THINK ABOUT IT?
The Courts are overwhelmed with disputes and this can often lead to delays in obtaining Court hearings. In a recent hearing HHJ Wildblood stated:
‘ Judges at this court have an unprecedented amount of work. We wish to provide members of the public with the legal service that they deserve and need. However, if our lists are clogged up with this type of unnecessary, high conflict private law litigation, we will not be able to do so.’
‘…Do not bring your private law litigation to the Family Court here unless it is genuinely necessary for you to do so. You should settle your differences (or those of your clients) away from court, except where that is not possible. If you do bring unnecessary cases to this court, you will be criticised, and sanctions may be imposed upon you. There are many other ways to settle disagreements…’
As a general principle, many family law specialists recognise that utilising parenting co-ordination provides a pragmatic solution to resolving disputes in a meaningful and cost-effective manner.
This new initiative that has been adopted by some of the Courts in the USA, Canada and South Africa and England and Wales. In a recent case in the High Court, the judiciary have indicated their support of the process, although it currently remains a voluntary process to be used by parents. The aim is that the parental coordinator can build up a rapport with the parents to which enables disputes to be resolved in a far timelier and sensitive manner than court can offer. This can be achieved by the parents achieving an agreement or by the parental coordinator making a determination. The ability of the coordinator to have the final say over the disputes is the unique element of this process.
HOW WE CAN HELP?
There are many different ways in which disputes between parents can be resolved. Parental Co-Ordination is one of the processes that may be appropriate.
Our team of family law specialists will consider the issues that you have and discuss with you the most appropriate way to deal with those. If you need advice please contact us.