The role of the parenting co-ordinator (PC) is to support you as co-parents in the day-to-day implementation and interpretation of your court order or parenting plan.
Court orders can often be vague with very general terms such as, for example, 50% of the summer holidays, and this can leave many arrangements open to different interpretations and often disagreement. If these matters aren’t resolved and turn into ‘chronic’ conflict, this can cause ongoing psychological and emotional harm to the children of your family.
How is Parenting Co-Ordination different from Mediation?
In many ways, parenting co-ordination is similar to mediation. Parenting co-ordinators (PCs) have a mediation role within the process if issues come up which the parents have not been able to agree. Your PC would help you both as parents to interpret the court order or parenting plan and support you to come up with practical interpretations. For example, if the court order states that the summer holidays are to be shared equally, the PC will support both parents to come up with options and will support you to try to reach an agreement which fits with your court order or parenting plan, but which still puts the children at the centre of your thoughts and considerations. The key difference between parenting co-ordination and mediation in looking to address practical issues after you have a court order of parenting plan is that, in parenting co-ordination, parents sign up for a period of time and have the same family professional on hand to support them when needed.
If this is your chosen path, your PC will build a working relationship with each of you as parents and will get to know and understand the dynamics of your family, which helps the PC to provide ongoing support to you, as parents. The PC’s role is also to help you both establish a co-operative parenting relationship by interrupting old patterns of communication and/or cycles of destructive behaviours which are getting in the way of the creation of a positive co-parenting alliance. The PC offers tools and techniques to support you in finding new ways of communicating and working together towards better co-parenting.
Your PC would play more of an authoritative, coaching, and educational role in supporting both parents to change communication patterns and responses to events or to one another by looking at how your children experience how you interact and at how that experience can affect them on into adulthood. Your PC works with each parent separately to help each of you to work with your individual triggers and issues within the dynamic, but the PC also brings you together, as parents, when appropriate to consolidate change.
Your PC can speak with GPs and if there have been substantial court proceedings, you would be asked to provide your PC with relevant court documentation if there have been, for example, psychological assessments or expert witness reports which might provide clarity when presented with two conflicting perspectives of the past.
If you, as parents, still aren’t able to reach an agreement, then you can request that the PC enters the ‘arbitration’ phase, at which point the PC would makes an implementation decision for the both of you. This phase can only be entered into if both parents consent, and it can only relate to the implementation of your parenting agreement or court order. If you wanted to change the order or agreement, you will need to return to court or re-negotiate your agreement with solicitors or a mediator outside the PC process.
To find out more about Parental Co-Ordination, visit the Parenting Coordinators Alliance website.