What is Parenting Coordination?
Parenting Coordination is usually a court ordered intervention designed to help separated, divorced, or unmarried parents work together cooperatively to make decisions affecting their children. The Parenting Coordinator (PC) works under the direction of a court order to help parents learn, develop and implement the decision making skills needed to avoid putting their children in the middle of parenting conflicts.
Who would benefit from Parenting Coordination?
Parents that are having difficulty resolving conflict in ways that support the development of co-parenting roles and that place the child(ren) in emotionally unsafe environments. Most parents in this category have one or more of the following characteristics: repetitious litigation, high levels of anger and distrust of the other parent, difficulty in communicating about and cooperating in the care of their children, lack of impulse and anger control, inability to abide by parenting plans, history of verbal or physical aggression towards others, frequent power struggles over the children in the divorce process, or any other behavior that at the discretion of the court warrant the appointment of a parenting coordinator.
What issues are addressed in Parenting Coordination?
In Texas, the court order will clearly define what issues will be addressed by the PC. Typically the parenting coordinator works with the parents on issues that are causing conflict that is impacting the child. The Parenting Coordinator will not make any substantive changes to the order and minor adjustments must be agreed upon by the parents. Often communication skills and discussing the health and well-being of the child or children are the major issues addressed through parenting coordination.
In addition, the PC acts to educate parents about conflict resolution, child development, and the impact of conflict on children. This is accomplished in weekly or bi-weekly joint sessions where parents bring concerns and then are provided information and a supportive place to talk through conflict resolution models to resolve issues and make positive decisions.
What are the qualifications and responsibilities of the PC?
Courts in Texas will determine the required qualifications provided that the PC must at least:
Hold a bachelor’s degree in counseling, education, family studies, psychology, or social work and, unless waived by the court, complete a parenting coordinator course of at least 16 hours; or
Hold a graduate degree in mental health profession, with an emphasis in family and children’s issues.
Additionally, a parenting coordinator appointed by the court must have at least 8 hours of family violence dynamics training provided by a family violence service provider.
The responsibility of the PC is to assist both parents and others involved in the lives of the child(ren) to resolve conflict in a way that is beneficial to the child(ren).
The PC has four major functions: education, parenting support, monitoring, and mediation.
The PC uses these four aspects to work with families and to help parents develop cooperative and collaborative methods for addressing and resolving conflict. The PC assists parents in understanding their roles as co-parents and in adjusting to their new roles as co-parents. The PC has responsibilities for monitoring the emotional climate of the family relationship. PCs advocate and safeguard the emotional and physical needs of the child by working in the best interest of the child, as well as receiving feedback from schools, therapists, or other professionals involved in the child(ren)’s lives. They observe changes in the family structure and relationship between the parents and the parent-child relationship.
The PC may use mediation techniques in assisting parents to resolve conflict. It is important to note that the PC is not acting as a mediator, attorney or therapist in the responsibilities of a PC.
Is there confidentiality or privilege in the Parenting Coordination process?
The PC role is confidential, and parents will be required to provide written consent for the PC to speak to other professionals or family members in the child(ren)’s life. The PC may choose not to discuss with parents where the information came from, and is not required to disclose this information.
The PC will involve others as appropriate in sessions. Extended family members, step-parents or step-family members may be requested to attend sessions. Reports on agreements will be shared with attorneys or other individuals as needed.
In accordance with the Texas Family Code, Chapter 153, Subchapter J, Sec 135.608, “A parenting coordinator shall submit a written report to the court and to the parties as often as ordered by the court. In the report, the parenting coordinator may give only an opinion regarding whether the parenting coordination is succeeding and should continue.” This reporting only if the sessions should continue or not is only directed towards the court. The Parenting Coordinator may share other information with the attorneys as deemed necessary by the PC.
The Parenting Coordinator may not testify in court and does not make any binding decisions on behalf of either party. A Parenting Facilitator (PF) may be appointed by the courts. A PF has the same function as a PC however they are not confidential and will testify in court and provide expert opinions as needed to the court.
What are the benefits of using a Parenting Coordinator?
Parenting Coordination benefits parents:
- Addresses disputes quickly and more efficiently
- Assists parents in defining their new roles as co-parents
- Provides education on child development
- Allows parents to increase communication, anger management, and problem solving skills
- Develops conflict resolution models to allow parents to co-parent in a successful manner throughout the years to follow
- Saves court time and costs
- Decisions made will be based on the unique family characteristics of the parents and the children
Parenting Coordination benefits children by:
- Enhances the chances that both parents will stay involved and active in the child’s life.
- Decreases the high-conflict interactions that children have been exposed to previously.
- Allows parents to model problem solving to the children, rather than relying on courts for decisions.
- Ensures child safety through open communication between parents.
- Avoids possible parent alienation syndrome.
- Provides a safe person for the children to talk to about their relationships with the parents.
- Increases the child’s understanding of parents working together in his or her best interest.