In very high conflict divorces issues regarding children’s parenting time can be difficult for parents to resolve. Disputes over vacation plans, children’s activities and minor changes to parenting schedules can send parents back to their lawyers to resolve the issues even where there is a detailed separation agreement or court order in place.
An alternative is for the parents to hire a parenting coordinator who is tasked with being an intermediary to help parents communicate their concerns to each other and to make decisions on minor issues if the parents are unable to agree.
Different parenting coordinators have different methods of intervening but typically parents will be required to sign a contract which sets out the parenting coordinator’s responsibilities and their hourly fees (typically $300–$400.00/hour) which fees are shared by the parents. Parents are then required to communicate only to the parenting coordinator who will discuss the concern with the other parent.
This can work very well but the problem is that it can be extremely expensive. Sometimes parenting coordinators will include in their agreement a provision that they are able to adjust their fees requiring a “difficult” parent to pay more and thereby discouraging further conflict.
Parenting coordinators can also be appointed by a judge and their mandate will be set out in a court order. If one of the parents disagrees with a decision made by a parenting coordinator they have the right to appeal the decision to a court.
Parenting coordinators are usually experienced family law lawyers or mental health professionals who have knowledge and experience about child development and children’s reactions to conflict which has resulted from their parents’ separation.
Deborah A. Todd