Friday, April 15, 2011

What is a Parent Coordinator?

According to the Guidelines for Parenting Coordination developed by the AFCC Task Force on Parenting Coordination:

"Parenting coordination is a child-focused alternative dispute resolution process in which a mental health or legal professional with mediation training and experience assists high conflict parents to implement their parenting plan by facilitating the resolution of their disputes in a timely manner, educating parents about children's needs, and with prior approval of the parties and/or the court, making decisions within the scope of the court order or appointment contract."

In other words, a Parent Coordinator helps parents avoid court by mediating their co-parenting disagreements.

Although some states have statutes that define Parent Coordinator's powers, in Massachusetts there is no statutory authority for parenting coordination. Judges differ on whether they have authority to order Parent Coordinators without a statute granting them that authority. Arguably the discretion afforded Judges to create orders for the best interest of the children could be extended to order the parents to cooperate with a parent coordinator. In all cases, though, Judges can affirm an agreement of the parties to use a parent coordinator.

This type of agreement is often recommended by attorneys in high conflict cases as a potential solution to avoiding multiple court hearings. In many instances a parent coordinator can be cheaper than going back to court again and again, and more effective because they not only assist with the immediate problem but help parents learn how to communicate with each other. If successful, the parents will no longer need the assistance of the court or eventually even the parent coordinator to help them co-parent effectively.

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