How “Parenting Coordinators” Are Helping Divorced Parents Settle Issues Outside the Courtroom

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All too often, divorce can get ugly. And when there are children involved, things can get even uglier. Each parent feels they have certain rights, the child is often caught in the middle, and a seemingly never-ending cycle of feuding fueled by bitterness and jealousy begins — both in court and out.

Enter, “parenting coordinators.”

Such is the name given to the select group of professional psychologists and lawyers who have been specially trained to aid in particularly contentious divorce cases. It’s all part of an initiative launched by the Family Justice Courts (FJC) back in 2016. The coordinators, who are assigned to manage high-conflict child custody and visitation cases, have one goal in mind: facilitating parent cooperation and carrying court-ordered arrangements.

Another hope is that by intervening early, family tensions won’t escalate — which in the long run, is better for both the kids and the parents. According to the Louisville Divorce Law Journal:

“Some of the issues parenting coordinators help resolve may be minor, but if left unaddressed, they can be the source of nasty fights that wind up in the courthouse, cost[ing] thousands of dollars in legal fees, and clog[ging] family-court dockets.”

(Ask most divorced couples, and they’d probably agree that these are all things they’d like to avoid — regardless of how acrimonious their relationship may be.)

When a couple splits, tensions run high and the simplest of questions can have convoluted answers. Among the most difficult decisions to make is where and when the parent with minor custody will get to spend time with their child.

“Ideally, the co-parenting coordinator listens to both parents and helps [them] come to a decision,” write Kyung Dickerson and Alan Plevy, who co-authored a fascinating Huffington Post article on the pros and cons of a parenting coordinator. “The process is intended to avoid the escalation that may result when small issues become larger arguments.”

This means that issues involving schooling, visitation, custodial rights, holidays, non-emergency medical care, and after-school activities can be approached by an objective third-party view — instead of causing a fight. Judy Larkins, a Divorce Mediator and Parenting Coordinator in Denver, Colorado told the Straits Times, “The parenting coordinator is a neutral third party whose job it is to assist in the resolution of disputes between the parties concerning parental responsibilities.” When emotions become tangled with anger and resentment, that neutral third party is an invaluable tool in making the broken family’s lives as streamlined as possible.

Senior Counsel Engelin Teh, a trained parenting coordinator and lawyer, knows all too well how couples can declare war over the smallest of matters. This is solely because they feel bitterness over the reasons for their divorce. Speaking with the Straits Times, Engelin Teh also explained how one parent will find it hard to allow the other parent to be involved in their child’s life, which is why they make it hard for them to spend time with the child:

“My role as a parenting coordinator is to mediate and encourage co-parenting, to find ways to reduce the conflict and to help them understand it is in the child’s best interest to be able to bond with both parents and for the child to know he or she is loved by both parents.”

Another bonus to using a parenting coordinator? Your child will see you as a role model for learning better communication and problem-solving skills — and that’s a pretty invaluable long-term benefit.

In the end, conflicts sparked by divorce only serve to hurt the kids who are caught in the middle, and certainly don’t bring any peace to the arguing parties. So if you’re currently embroiled in a contentious split, and spending more time arranging court dates and paying litigation fees than simply enjoying your life with your child, you may want to look into whether a parenting coordinator is right for you.

After all, isn’t the best interest of your child the ultimate goal?

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