Parenting Coordination is a term to describe a psychologist, acting usually on the direction of the Court, to assist in a variety of specific areas, to assist families and children in distress. In Alberta, the focus of a Parenting Coordinator can be defined by the Court and is usually specific. Parenting Coordination, if ordered by a Court is usually not confidential.
Parenting coordination is normally a binding arbitration practice model emerging as a result of:
• increased high-conflict divorce cases flooding the courts;
• concern that children’s best interests are being compromised.
If it is an arbitration, it is under the Arbitration Act of Alberta, and Fong Ailon are leaders in arbitration in a number of areas and have been trainers in the area of arbitration in the family area since 1992.
Parenting coordination is a child-focused, alternative dispute resolution process. In high-conflict separations or divorces, parenting issues arise with greater frequency and continue to bring parents back to Court for resolution, which is both time consuming and expensive. Parenting Coordination offers an alternative strategy to manage such disputes as they arise. Additionally, parents may access the service of a Parenting Coordinator in a timely fashion, and costs are usually less than going to Court.
The Parenting Coordinator is a psychologist who must have knowledge of, and experience with, separation and divorce, high-conflict families, child development, conflict-resolution skills, family systems, domestic violence, as well as mediation processes.
The role of a Parenting Coordinator is to assist high-conflict parents develop and/or implement their parenting plan by:
1. Facilitating dispute resolution in a timely fashion.
2. Educating parents regarding the children’s needs.
3. Making binding decisions regarding the best interests of the children, with prior written consent of the parties and/or the Court.
The Parenting Coordinator is empowered by the parents and by Court Order to make decisions binding on the parents in the event the parents are unable to agree.
With regard to the fees associated with the Parenting Coordinator’s service, parents divide these fees equally unless there is a prior agreement. There may be an Order of the Court specifying how costs are to be distributed between the parties.
REFERRAL AND SERVICE PROCESS
1. A lawyer for either party may initiate contact for the purpose of referral, or both parents must make contact to discuss the referral. Assuming the Parenting Coordinator agrees to accept the referral, a retainer agreement/informed consent is signed and the parents will make payment accordingly in advance of any other activity commenced by the Parenting Coordinator.
2. Parents or their lawyers then provide pertinent reports such as found in the pleadings brief and which can include affidavit material, reports of Child and Family Services involvement, prior assessments, etc. These may be read prior to setting meetings.
3. The Parenting Coordinator meets with both parents together in a joint session wherein specific issues of concern are discussed. If there is sufficient cause or reason that the parents cannot be seen together, appropriate arrangements may be made at the Parenting Coordinator’s discretion. The Parenting Coordinator will also discuss his or her willingness to act as Parenting Coordinator, any conditions therein, advise of any other intervention and/or service as appropriate, or make binding decisions relative to issues thus far presented.
4. Issues of concern may then be presented and/or addressed on an ongoing basis. Meetings and other sources of information required to assist in settling disputes or coming to a decision are at the Parenting Coordinator’s discretion, taking into account the input of the parents, the Court or retained legal counsel.