Parenting coordination is a process that helps parents identify conflicts between them and consider ways to parent more effectively. A parent coordinator (PC) is an impartial mental health professional or a legal professional with mediation experience. The PC educates parents about their children’s needs and ways to meet those needs.
Read the Rule: Md. Rule 9-205.2
Topics on this page
- When to consider Parent Coordination
- How to get a Parenting Coordinator
- How Parenting Coordination works
Parent Coordination’s purpose is to help safeguard the child/children's emotional and physical needs. Parental conflict greatly impacts a child's healthy adjustment and self-esteem. Consider Parent Coordination for high conflict cases with child related issues or when mediation has not been effective (or is inappropriate as in cases of domestic violence).
Parental Coordination is effective for parents who
- have difficulty communicating information about the welfare of their children,
- cannot agree on substantive issues concerning their children, or
- have complex child related issues that may require intense case management.
A key principle of Parent Coordination is that parents retain the power and responsibility to make decisions about their children's well-being. Parent's active participation in the decision-making process leads to better outcomes for parents and children alike. Divorce is hard for children, but research suggests that high levels of inter-parental conflict is the biggest risk factor for children’s problems after divorce. Inter-parental conflict, rather than the divorce or visitation schedule, is the most critical factor in children's post-divorce adjustment.
Parents can decide to see a PC on their own, or a court can order the parents to work with a PC. If the parents agree to use a PC, they may ask a court to enforce that agreement through a “consent order.” The consent order will include the agreement between the PC and the parents. The agreement must:
- Be in writing and signed by the parties and the parenting coordinator.
- State the services to be provided by the PC.
- State how much confidential information the PC can receive, and whether the PC must keep the information confidential or can share it with the other parent or the court.
- State how much the PC will be paid.
- Be in the best interests of the child.
If the parents do not ask a court to enter a consent order, the requirements listed above do not apply. A PC can be appointed during a child custody case or as part of a custody judgment to help the parents going forward.
The PC can make minor, temporary decisions about custody and visitation, if the parties agree or a court orders it. Examples include making one-time or minor changes in the time or place for a child transfer and one-time or minor deviations from schedules to accommodate special events or circumstances.
The PC helps parents to create or modify a parenting plan. (Learn more about parenting plans.) The PC can mediate disputes between the parents, provide education, and monitor the parents behavior to make sure the parenting plan is being followed. This is necessary because the families involved in parenting coordination are those that continue to engage in inappropriate and dangerous behaviors.
The PC is specifically trained to intervene and work with these difficult clients. The PC helps by:
- identifying the source of the conflict(s)
- assisting families in developing collaborative planning and decision-making skills through
- anger management
- conflict resolution skills
Further, the PC may help communication with others involved in the family's life such as school personnel, doctors, therapists, grandparents, attorneys, and court personnel. The PC may also be used both during or after divorce and may continue for years after a divorce. The PC can be available to the family in the future as needed to assist with conflicts that may arise.
Unlike clinical therapy or counseling, parent coordination is not confidential. The PC resolves problems and conflicts between parents by demonstrating the shared responsibility parents have in raising their children. Unlike therapy (and often mediation as well) parent coordination is highly structured and often directive in style. (Learn more about mediation and family mediation.)
A PC may testify at a court hearing, but only as a factual witness. Otherwise, the PC may not communicate with the court or any court staff regarding the case.
If the PC is concerned that a party or child is in imminent physical or emotional danger, they must report that concern to the court.
The court may set costs for parenting coordinators. The court-appointed PC may not charge or accept a higher fee than what the court allows. Health insurance generally does not cover costs of Parent Coordination. The court decides which party will pay the PC and may divide the costs based on the party’s financial resources.