In high-conflict separations or divorces, parenting issues may arise with greater frequency that continue to bring parents back to Court for resolution. This strategy is both untimely and expensive. An alternate strategy to manage such disputes as they arise is through the use of a Parenting Coordinator.
A Parenting Coordinator is a neutral person to whom parents can turn when in dispute on matters relating to the children. Parents may access the service of a Parenting Coordinator in a more timely fashion and costs are almost always less than going to Court, but this is not a guarantee.
The role of the Parenting Coordinator is to help parents resolve disputes with regard to the implementation or follow-through of a pre-existing parenting plan, separation agreement, minutes of settlement or any other contract with regard to the care of children between them or any other agreed upon parenting matter. To be clear, the parenting coordinator is to address and help facilitate a pre-existing parenting plan or resolve new unanticipated issues. The parenting coordinator typically does not substantially change pre-existing agreements on a permanent basis, unless specifically empowered to do so. This is distinguished from mediation/arbitration where there may not yet be an existing parenting agreement and where the mediator/arbitrator is given jurisdiction to address any issue brought forward by either parent or as mutually predetermined by agreement. These may appear to be fine distinctions and to understand fully, you may need to consult a lawyer.
Parenting Coordinators typically act in two capacities with the same clients: mediator and arbitrator. In other words, if the parents in Parenting Coordination are unable to resolve their issue(s) by way of mediation (which may include coaching, education, guidance, etc.) then the Parenting Coordinator would arbitrate the matter, meaning that the same person would go from one who helps facilitate decisions between the parents to one who makes decisions on their behalf.
My approach to Parenting Coordination is different. It is my experience that when the same service provider functions as both mediator and arbitrator, once a matter is arbitrated, many persons consider the Parenting Coordinator biased in favor of whom the arbitrated decision was most closely aligned. This then may undermine the spirit of Parenting Coordination, creating the conditions that can lead to the termination, withdrawal or dismissal of the Parenting Coordinator. Service is lost in its entirety.
With regard to costs associated with the Parenting Coordinator service specifically, parents typically divide these costs equally unless there is a prior agreement to do otherwise or unless there is an Order of the Court specifying how costs are to be distributed between them. The matter of distribution of costs must be determined by the parents, lawyers or Courts, prior to referral. If over the course of service a parent wishes to dispute the allocation of costs between themselves and are unable to resolve this through mediation, then this would be a matter for arbitration or litigation, bearing in mind that the mediation service is a closed process.