Many parents continue to have disputes during or after the litigation ends. Without swift access to court, parents need a process to resolve important issues in a prompt and cost-efficient manner. Parents can accomplish this by utilizing the services of a Parent Coordinator.
WHAT IS PARENT COORDINATION?
Parent Coordination is a dispute-resolution process designed to help parents (1) develop an agreed plan for custody and visitation if no plan is in place and (2) resolve disputes over existing Court Orders and Parenting Plans. In short, Parent Coordination is a way to problem-solve cost-effectively.
WHAT IS A PARENT COORDINATOR?
A Parent Coordinator is a trained, impartial third party who works with parents to reach a fair compromise on issues relating to their children. If the parents are unable to reach an agreement, the Parent Coordinator can serve as the tiebreaker and issue a written decision as authorized by the parents. The parents agree to be legally bound by the decision until a Court determines otherwise.
HOW IS A PARENT COORDINATOR TRAINED?
To be certified, Parent Coordinators complete 100 hours of training, as outlined in the Maryland Rules. Areas covered in the training include working with high-conflict families, developmental stages of children, conflict resolution, and parenting skills. Parent Coordinators also participate in annual continuing education.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE PARENT COORDINATOR?
The Parent Coordinator should:
Assess each family’s needs and the conflicts facing them;
Identify the issues that are impacting co-parenting;
Facilitate structured discussions to resolve conflicts;
Maintain boundaries and decorum during meetings;
Educate parents on making and implementing decisions that are in the best interests of their child(ren);
Suggest appropriate resources for the parents to assist with decision-making;
Aid parents in interpreting and implementing their existing Orders and Agreements; and
Document all agreements reached by the parents or decisions reached by the Parent Coordinator.
WHO ARE THE BEST CANDIDATES FOR PARENT COORDINATION?
Parent Coordination is designed to resolve disputes between parents who are unwilling or unable to communicate effectively, make joint parenting decisions, comply with existing parenting agreements, or shield their children from parental conflict. If you and your co-parent have engaged in contested litigation, have difficulty communicating, or spend much of the time arguing, this process may be right for you.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS TO PARENT COORDINATION?
Parent Coordination saves parents time and money. Rather than paying lawyers to act as the go-between for disputes, the parents communicate with each other in a structured setting and attempt to resolve the issue. If the parents cannot resolve the issue, the Parent Coordinator can make the decision on their behalf as authorized.
HOW IS PARENTING COORDINATION DIFFERENT THAN MEDIATION?
Parent Coordination does incorporate mediation techniques to resolve the dispute. However, there are some major differences between Parent Coordination and mediation.
Unlike mediation, Parent Coordination is not a confidential process. A Parent Coordinator can share anything said at the session with the parents, lawyers, and the Court.
A Parent Coordinator is impartial, while a mediator is neutral. This means that while a Parent Coordinator has no allegiance to either parent, the Parent Coordinator can take a side on a disputed issue and serve as a tiebreaker. In mediation, the mediator does not take a parent’s side on any issue.
Parent Coordinators have authority whether stipulated to by the parents or ordered by the Court. Mediators have no authority when it comes to dispute resolution.
WHAT ISSUES CAN A PARENT COORDINATOR RESOLVE?
The Parent Coordinator may be the tiebreaker if decisions are not agreed upon by the parents after a good-faith discussion on the following topics:
Adjustments to visitation (dates and times) that do not substantially alter the basic time-sharing arrangement;
Transportation to and from visitation, who goes to whom, location of exchanges, punctuality, consequences for missed visitation;
Scheduling of vacations and holidays;
Scheduling activities for the child(ren), including afterschool activities, extracurricular activities, and camps;
Family rules and routines: bedtime, allowance, diet, clothing, shoes, haircuts, hygiene, discipline, etc.;
Issues relating to education, including tutoring and homework;
Medical issues, including whether a child should be in therapy;
Contact with child(ren), i.e. telephone calls, frequency, and time;
Roles of and contact with significant others, romantic interests, and extended families;
Participation in parenting time by significant others, relatives, etc.;
Parent communication, e.g. email, phone, exchange logs;
Exchanging clothing and personal possessions of the child(ren); and
Other related custody issues that the parents mutually agree, in writing, to submit to the Parent Coordinator.
As part of the Parent Coordination process, the parents agree to be bound by the decision of the Parent Coordinator unless and until the Court orders otherwise.
WHAT ARE THE LIMITATIONS OF PARENT COORDINATION?
The Parent Coordinator cannot determine or modify physical custody or legal custody. The Parent Coordinator can; however, facilitate discussions between the parents on these issues. If the parents do reach an agreement on physical custody or legal custody, the Parent Coordinator will memorialize the agreement and send it to the lawyers to incorporate into a binding Order.
WHO ATTENDS PARENT COORDINATION MEETINGS?
Only parents can attend sessions. During sessions, the Parent Coordinator takes careful notes of the issues being discussed and any resolutions reached. After each session, the notes are summarized into a memorandum and shared with the parents and their lawyers. The memorandum serves as the official documentation of the meeting and keeps lawyers apprised of what is happening in our sessions.
HOW OFTEN DO PARENTS MEET?
The parents shall meet as frequently as is deemed appropriate by the Parent Coordinator and the parents (and/or counsel) or as ordered by the Court. For the first three months of Parent Coordination, the parents should plan to meet once per month. A typical meeting is scheduled for 2 hours. Regular meetings are important to build trust between the parents and the Parent Coordinator. As parents learn how to resolve disputes outside of the Parent Coordination setting, fewer meetings are needed. However, depending on the issue, the Parent Coordinator may be able to resolve the dispute via email or telephone call.
WHAT DO WE EXPECT AT PARENT COORDINATION MEETINGS?
Parents should expect that the Parent Coordinator will work hard to solve the problems that a family is facing. Parents should also expect to behave respectfully towards each other and that each parent would have the opportunity to be heard on the issue in dispute.
HOW DO WE PREPARE FOR A PARENT COORDINATION MEETING?
Prior to the first meeting, each parent must sign a Parent Coordination Agreement and pay the required retainer. It would be helpful to provide copies of any existing Court Orders, Agreements, or Parenting Plans to the Parent Coordinator prior to the first meeting. Before each meeting, the Parent Coordinator will ask parents to submit an agenda via email, so each parent is aware of the issues that will be discussed and has time to prepare for the session.
HOW DO WE BEGIN THE PARENT COORDINATION PROCESS?
Please contact the office at 410-842-1070 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule and obtain a copy of the Parent Coordination Agreement.