Divorce conflict is likely the most intense level of conflict a person may be involved in. Songs have been written about it, and the plot of movies have been based on the vitriolic acrimony between people whose love has morphed into bitter hatred. While we may sit in the movie theatre and laugh at the insane notion that these two people cannot agree on anything and fight over everything, it’s not quite so comical when you think it happens in real life. It is also sad when you consider what impact this level of conflict is having on the children involved. Parenting coordinators step in and serve as referees—neutral third parties—between the parents to facilitate effective communication and model decision making.
What is a parenting coordinator?
In Maryland, parenting coordinators (PCs) can be licensed mental health professionals or family law professionals who are either appointed by a judge (at the agreement of both parents) or selected by the parents to manage the level of conflict between the parties. They are required to undergo training and continuing education. The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) defines a parenting Coordinator in this way: “Parenting coordination is an alternative dispute resolution process combining assessment, education, case management, conflict resolution and, sometimes, decision-making functions. A Parenting coordinator (PC) is typically appointed by a court order or private consent agreement to help parents implement, modify and comply with the parenting plan.”
A PC is NOT your lawyer, however. Nor is he or she your therapist or mediator. The coordinator is an entirely separate, and entirely neutral, third-party whose only goal is to help parents in conflict reach a resolution.
How does parenting coordination work?
Parents who have a high level of conflict in their relationship have constant disagreements about everything, and they often tend to appear in court a lot to have their disagreements litigated. An important role of the parenting coordinator is to facilitate the lowering of the level of conflict between the parties and help them find a way to make decisions on their own without the constant court appearances. The PC’s area of focus is on facilitating communication between the parents as it relates to the children. They help to make sure that the parents can set aside their conflict with one another long enough to make important and mundane decisions that will affect their child’s welfare.
Parents who break into a fight when trying to decide where to send their child to school, whether or where they will attend religious instruction, they might argue about vacation or holiday schedules, pickup and drop-off schedules, how much telephone or email access the other parent will have when the child is with them and any manner of disagreement. The PC endeavors to facilitate the parties coming to their own resolution of these types of issues as they arise, but in the absence of an agreement, may make the decision, which the parents agreed in advance would be binding.
If you are facing a custody dispute, the skilled Bethesda custody lawyers of McCabe Russell, PA are here to represent your interests through all the difficulties of deciding custody in divorce. We listen, we answer your questions and then recommend the best next steps in the best interest of the child. To set up a consultation, or to speak with us about parenting coordination services, please call 443-917-3347 or fill out our contact form. We also maintain offices in Fulton, Columbia and Rockville.