Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Some separated or divorced parents continue to find themselves in ongoing disputes,
even in view of separation agreements and parenting plans. The high-conflict
nature of those disputes interferes with the well-being of the children and
continually brings these parents to Court for resolution.
In view of the cost and cumbersome nature of utilizing Courts to resolve disputes,
some parents opt for the services of a Parenting Coordinator.
Parenting Coordination is a mutually agreed upon service as usually is the
actual service provider. In other words, parents choose to use this dispute
resolution alternative and service provider. The service provider is empowered
by the parents to hear their dispute and then depending on the nature of the
service agreement, will provide guidance and/or mediation and/or arbitration
to resolve it. In view of arbitration, the parents are bound by the Parenting
Coordinator’s binding recommendation as if it were an order of the Court.
Thus the parents in dispute have access to a more timely resolution service,
often provided at lower cost.
Clinical experience and anecdotal information suggests a Parenting Coordinator
is helpful in keeping parents in high conflict situations from continually reaching
the courts. The efficacy of service depends both on matters originating with
the parents being served and upon characteristics of the service provider.
Given that the Parenting Coordinator will be working with some of the most
cantankerous situations, clinical wisdom suggests there may be underlying issues
of abuse, domestic violence, power/control, mental health, drugs and alcohol
affecting people involved in those situations. Hence the service provider must
possess considerable training, knowledge and experience in these matters as
well as management of people and situations thereby affected. Further, the service
provider must be apprised and knowledgeable of issues related to child custody
and access/visitation, child development, separation and divorce, and issues
related to estrangement and alienation.
Given the personal issues underlying some of these parents who continually
find themselves in such ongoing high conflict, there is also a propensity amongst
some of them to turn their sights upon the service provider when matters do
not resolve, as they would prefer. Thus the same behavior directed between parents
to each other, may be directed towards the service provider. Hence, apart from
the considerable training, knowledge and experience a Parenting Coordinator
must possess, of equal or greater importance is the ability of the Parenting
Coordinator to withstand the intensity of the parents between themselves. The
Parenting Coordinator must also be able to withstand either parent’s consternation
and intensity if personally directed.
When considering a Parenting Coordinator, it is wise to then look for someone
with considerable training, knowledge, experience and expertise as well as a
considerable ability to handle emotional intensity, particularly when personally
directed. Further, the Parenting Coordinator should provide a clear written
agreement specifying the terms of service to thus hold all persons accountable
to a set of processes for managing the issues of dispute as well as disputes
that may arise, the result of the process or personal variables. The service
providers must also be clear as to their own boundaries, fees, dispute resolution,
complaints and termination of service.
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