A parenting coordinator (also known as a PC) is a mental health professional or lawyer who has advanced training and experience in working with high conflict families, child development, family systems, family violence, and dispute resolution. A PC does not make decisions about parenting time, or decision making, but rather will help parents to address and resolve issues in a child focused manner. Parenting coordinators assist parents in implementing and helping carry out the terms of their parenting plan or court order.
Parenting coordinators have two primary roles. The first is to minimize conflict between the parents by providing education around children’s needs and development, along with problem-solving and communication skills.
The PC also provides fast access to dispute resolution. When parents can’t agree on issues, the parenting coordinator will attempt to mediate an agreement between the parents. If no agreement can be reached, the PC will make a binding decision that the parents must follow. The decisions made by the coordinator are informed by interviews with collaterals such as school professionals, therapists, doctors etc., and always by the needs and best interest of the children.
Parenting coordinators have training in mediation, conflict resolution, and collaborative problem solving, even in difficult situations. Despite the history between the parents or the issues being addressed, the coordinator remains a neutral and unbiased independent party (although it may not feel like that at times to parents), and makes decisions that are in the best interest of children.
What if I don’t want to use a parenting coordinator? Or what if I have a PC but don’t want to continue?
Parenting coordination is voluntarily in Ontario, which means no one can be forced to use parenting coordination services. A judge cannot order the use of a parenting coordinator if one party does not want to participate.
PC’s work under a signed agreement to provide services and with a retainer, much like lawyers. It is not unusual in high conflict matters for one parent to unilaterally decide terminate involvement. Most agreements address this issue by specifying that both parents must agree to terminate services, to avoid one parent undermining the process or ongoing involvement.
What sorts of things does the parenting coordinator help with?
Below is a list of some of the things parenting coordinators help with:
- participation in and scheduling of children’s extra-curricular activities, as well as payment (if not clearly specified in an order)
- drop off and pick up arrangements (parenting time exchange/transitions)
- where children’s belongings are stored, or how they travel between homes
- how to manage lost belongings
- intervening in parent-child contact problems/child refusing to see one parent
- who can attend events and extra-curricular activities
- meeting directly with children, if deemed appropriate, to hear their views and wishes
- changes to regular access such as vacation and holiday planning
- assist parents in communicating without conflict
- intervening in communication if there is high conflict behaviour or safety issues
- contact between children and parents during the other’s parenting time
- if a child should attend for counselling and where they should attend
- if parents require counselling and where to attend
- creating and maintaining parenting time/access when court orders are vague
- consequences for a parent who is not following terms and conditions of agreements made
- managing different parenting practices in each home
- education about ages and stages of development, and any other child related needs
- education about conflict and the impact on children, along with tools to manage conflict
- ensuring each parent has access to information from collaterals involved with the children
- ensuring any agreements made between parents are summarized and provided in writing (thereby avoiding the “I didn’t say/agree to that” issues that often arise where there is high conflict)
- providing access to fast dispute resolution (unlike bringing a court motion which could take many months to address)
Is a parenting coordinator safe or appropriate in situations where there is current or historical family violence?
The PC will ask for information about family violence during the referral process to determine if services are appropriate and can be provided safely. Once it has been decided that PC services are appropriate, the parenting coordinator will always conduct a private screening interview with each parent prior to beginning any mediation or joint sessions. The PC will assess for historical and current issues of violence or imbalances of power and control, along with any safety issues. The safety of children and parents are a primary consideration for PCs at every stage of involvement. Any information shared by the parent regarding family violence in the screening interview is kept confidential but will continue to inform the PC’s interventions.
How do we know if the parenting coordinator is right for our family?
All families are unique and we want to ensure that our services are right for you. You also know your strengths and needs so you’ll want to assess the following when we chat (or you talk to any PC):
- Do you feel comfortable talking with him or her? Yes, first calls are awkward, but does the person seem approachable and open interacting with you?
- Is the PC comfortable communicating with lawyers and the courts?
- Aside from the basic training all PC’s must have, does he or she have training and experience in dealing with your particular issues? (eg history of family violence, substance issues, culture/religion)
- Answer any questions you have and make you feel like you understand the next steps and the process?
- Can he or she work with any disabilities, special needs, or special circumstances your family faces?
- What fees are involved? What are the rules around payment, fees, and contracts?
- Does the PC speak to both of you either separately or together? (The PC should always speak to each parent.)
- Does the coordinator have the time available to work with your family? Is there a waitlist?
How to refer/request PC services with us
We accept referrals or requests for more information by email only. Our admin assistant, Ella Burke, screens referrals to ensure that the parenting coordinator has no contact with the parties until both parents are ready to move forward. This allows our PCs to ensure that they are not having contact with just one party, thereby avoiding any concern about potential bias.
To make a referral or request more information, please email our office assistant Ella Burke at firstname.lastname@example.org If you are making a referral for services, please include the email information of both parents in your email.