Friday, October 19, 2007

Parenting Coordinators - a solution to some problems?

Another interesting idea from another state. The South Carolina Divorce Lawyer posted an article headlined Using Parenting Coordinators to Resolve Family Law Issues.

"What happens when parents cannot agree on issues pertaining to their children? In the past, this situation typically resulted in both parents hiring attorneys, going to Court, slugging it out, and ultimately having a Judge decide the issues for them. Fortunately, there is another option available today for parents facing this situation: utilize a parenting coordinator. Parenting coordinators usually have backgrounds as mental-health professionals, lawyers or mediators, and they typically have completed a training certification course. Basically, these professionals attempt to establish rules or communication procedures to help parents work together more effectively, and I believe that they can be very helpful in that capacity".


Parenting coordinators usually analyze the parents’ communication styles and parenting techniques, and then they suggest ways to improve any deficient areas. In some cases, the coordinators will get input from the children to get their points of view. The goal of the parenting coordinator should be to give parents the skills to resolve disputes themselves, as they are really the best people to make decisions concerning their children.

I know Madison and the surrounding counties have nothing like this in place. I know The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines say the following about resolving problems:

1. Disagreements Generally. When a disagreement occurs regarding parenting time and the requirements of these Guidelines, both parents shall make every effort to discuss options, including mediation, in an attempt to resolve the dispute before going to court.

2. Mediation. If court action is initiated, the parents shall enter into mediation unless otherwise ordered by the court.

These requirements often get reversed - that there is a court hearing unless the court orders mediation. The reason being cost. A reasonably priced service that the parents can utilize before getting the lawyers involved might find a profitable market.

The South Carolina blog does point out the areas where this service has a low likelihood of success. To my mind, these will be the same cases where mediation will not work and the blunt instrument of a judicial hearing will be needed.
Situations involving extremely high-conflict parents, domestic violence, substance abuse, or severe mental illness are probably not good candidates for involvement by parenting coordinators. Similarly, I believe that while it might make sense for parents to grant the coordinator the ability to decide “minor” issues should an impasse arise, they should not delegate more important decisions. For instance, I do not believe that parenting coordinators should make decisions that affect the rights of parents, such as custody modifications, relocation decisions, and the like.

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