Cape Cod Divorce & Mediation, P.C.
Law Office of Chantal Hayes Rice, Esq.
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Parenting coordination

Once the intimate relationship dissolves, parents have to face years of working together to raise their children.  While the courts can make broad decisions about custody and parenting/visitation plans, the court rarely makes decisions about basic day-to-day caretaking of the children.  The court expects that parents will work together and act in the best interest of their children to implement the parenting plan as ordered and not involve the courts for every dispute.  The problems is that many parents have not learned how to communicate with each other on parenting issues and, as a result, conflict ensues that has a lasting negative impact on the children.  This results in multiple court actions that rarely solve the problems and children that feel stuck in the middle. 

Once the initial custody order and parenting plan is decided, either by agreement or after a trial, the real work between the parents begins.  Parents who can cooperate with each other may never need court intervention in the future.  However, when one or both parties struggle with mental or other health issues, personality issues, substance abuse or other characteristics that affect the ability to communicate, it makes the co-parenting relationship nearly impossible to succeed.  For better or for worse, parents must learn to get along and cooperate for the sake of the children otherwise the children suffer and the parties become emotionally and financially drained litigating their disputes to an overburdened judge. 

The parties can instead choose to hire a "Parenting Coordinator" or PC to help resolve disputes between the parties, to teach the parents good communication skills, and in some cases make a binding decision that a court will honor if the parents cannot come to an agreement.  While a person must have mediation training in order to qualify as a Parenting Coordinator, the PC is not simply a mediator.  A PC has additional graduate level training in Parenting Coordination to work with high-conflict parents where a mediator does not.  The mediation process is confidential between the mediator and parties and the mediator cannot be called to testify in any contested court action between the parties. By contrast, the parenting coordination process is NOT confidential and the PC may make periodic reports to the court and can be called to testify as to the discussions and topics of conversations discussed in meetings.  A mediator does not perform any investigation and simply relies on the parties' representations to help them come to an agreement.  A PC may decide to make a full investigation by speaking with the children (if appropriate), teachers, therapists or other people involved in the care of the children and who can provide additional information to the PC in order to help the parties agree or to assist the PC in making a binding decision for the parties.  

Parents in high conflict situations are strongly encouraged to seek the services of a PC to assist them in staying out of court and provide solutions for the parties to implement in their parenting decisions. Parties are encouraged to schedule a free 1/2 hour consultation to learn more about Parenting Coordination. 

Parenting Coordination in Action

Michael and Karen were married for 10 years and have two children, Aidan (age 6) & Emily (age 9). After a bitter divorce trial, the parties were ordered to share custody under the following parenting plan:  Karen has parenting time on Mondays and Tuesdays, Michael has parenting time on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and the parties alternate weekends.  

After their divorce Michael and Karen struggled with basic issues such as agreeing on appropriate extracurricular activities for the children, therapy, religious education and school related concerns. Since the judgment issued over 2 years ago, the parties have been embroiled in multiple modification and contempt actions.  Emily has developed serious mental health issues due to the instability she feels about her parents.  Aidan has regressed considerably only wanting to stay with Karen and crying hysterically when Michael picks him up.  Karen has filed for contempt several times against Michael for disparaging her to the children and because he continually is late for pick ups and drop offs.  Last year Michael filed a complaint for modification against Karen seeking full physical custody of the children based on Karen's issues with alcohol. Karen counterclaimed for full physical custody alleging that Michael was psychologically abusing the children. Both modifications were denied by the court and the judge found that a shared parenting plan was still in the best interest of the children.  During the last modification trial and in light of the high conflict displayed by the parties, the judge strongly encouraged them to agree to submit any future issues to a Parenting Coordinator of their choosing to avoid litigation and focus on resolving parenting disputes in a constructive rather than destructive way. The parties agreed and the judge wrote in the modification judgment that all future issues between the parties must be submitted to the parenting coordinator before either party files for contempt or modification.  

The parties began meeting with the parenting coordinator and after only two months made significant progress with their communication.  The parenting coordinator helped each party to empathize and listen to the other party even if they do not agree with the other party's position.  Through proper training, these parents were able to put aside their anger towards each other and focus on their common goal of raising well-adjusted children.  Also, whenever Michael and Karen have a time-sensitive parenting issue, they can resolve it much faster with the help of the PC rather than waiting weeks or months to have the judge make a decision.  While they still do not agree on everything, Michael and Karen are both committed to reducing the conflict between them and minimizing its impact on Emily and Aidan.  This is how Parenting Coordination is helping high conflict parents recognize the needs of their children and how important it is to work together instead of against each other. 

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