Parent Coordination

Parenting Coordination is a non-confidential, child centered process for conflicted divorced and divorcing parents. It is a form of dispute resolution for parents in which mediation would be inappropriate or ineffective due to high levels of conflict. Through education, mediation and case management, the family's progress is monitored to ensure that parents are fulfilling their obligations to their child while complying with the recommendations of the court. With prior approval of the parties and/or the Court, the PC may make temporary decisions, within the scope of the court order or appointment contract, to help high-conflict parents who have demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to make parenting decisions on their own. The role of the parent coordinator is outlined by the authority granted in the court order or the stipulation of the parties.

Parenting Coordinators assist parents establish and maintain a healthy co-parenting relationship by reducing parental conflict and the risk factors that influence a child's post-divorce adjustment. The overall emphasis is to offer children the opportunity to grow in a home environment free from the devastating stress of being caught in the middle of parental conflict.

What are the goals of a Parent Coordinator?

  1. Shield children from parental conflict and eliminate loyalty binds
  2. Ensure parental access
  3. Improve the parent's ability to communicate and negotiate while mediating co-parenting issues
  4. Increase parental respect for the sake of their children
  5. Clarify and reduce loop holes in an already existing parenting plan
  6. Assist in the mediation of a parenting plan when involved mid-divorce or pre-divorce
  7. Monitor parental behaviors and ensure both parties honor their Court order or stipulation terms
  8. Assess any allegations and report back to the parties' counsel or Attorney for the Child

How is working with a Parent Coordinator different from requiring parents to attend a "COPE" program, "Parent Education" or other similar program/seminar?

Four- or six-hour seminars are intended to give parents an overview of the divorce process, the impact of conflict on their child and some dos and don'ts to keep their child out of the middle. While most divorce seminars are didactic in nature, parent coordination goes much further than an educational program. Parent coordination is a form of dispute resolution for high conflict families to resolve parenting issues as part of their divorce or post divorce. Unlike a "one size fits all" seminar/program, Parent Coordination is tailored to the unique needs, personalities and circumstances of each family. Many individuals would benefit from attending a Parent Education seminar/program and thereafter working with a Parent Coordinator to assist them in implementing the principles and strategies they have learned in that general program to their individual co-parenting practices.

Which situations indicate the need for a PC?

Parent Coordination is an appropriate step when:

  1. There is indication a child may be suffering as a result of hostility between the parents.
  2. One or both parents have been unable to make good parenting decisions without third party assistance.
  3. One or both parents have demonstrated poor impulse control and/or poor communication skills.
  4. There is the possibility that a child is being alienated from a parent or when visitation has been improperly interfered with in some manner.
  5. One or both parents usually resort to litigation to resolve issues that do not require judicial intervention.
  6. Children feel "caught in the middle" of parental conflict.
  7. One or both parents attempt to control the other using the child as a pawn
  8. Step-parents, grandparents or significant others are creating issues.
  9. Parents have been granted "joint" legal or physical custody but there are concerns regarding the parents' ability to work together.

Peter L Jameson PLLC

What is the cost associated with the appointment?

The initial intake session for each family member costs $100. Joint sessions cost $100 per parent and are generally sixty to eighty minutes in duration. Each parent must also purchase the Cooperative Parenting workbook for $22. No advance retainer is required. Payment is expected for services rendered at the end of each session.

Are there additional expenses for Parent Coordination?

Parents must pay for additional fees such as consultations, emergency phone sessions, and written memos to the attorneys if the PC is required (by the Court, counsel or agreement of the parties) to provide such services. Parents can keep additional fees to a minimum by limiting their requests. The sooner the parents achieve their goals, the sooner they may begin working on an "as needed" basis. Generally all fees are equally shared by both parents unless otherwise agreed upon or ordered by the Court.

My Parent Coordinator is a duly licensed attorney. Can he/she provide me with legal advice and is the process protected by Attorney/Client privilege?

Although the Parent Coordinator is a licensed and practicing family law Attorney, when the Attorney is working as a Parent Coordinator he is not engaged in the practice of law and will not provide any legal advice to the parties. Neither party should look to the PC to advance or protect his or her legal rights. Parent coordination is not a confidential process. However, unless required to testify in Court, the PC will not share information with anyone other than the parties or attorneys without prior permission from both parents. It should also be noted that neither parent is considered a "client" of the PC - the only "client" is the child.

Can parents participate in Parent Coordination without a Court Order?

Yes. The parties may enter into a written agreement to work with a PC. The language of such a document must be very specific to avoid confusion by either parent or their attorneys. A sample Order Appointing Parent Coordinator and/or Stipulation Appointing Parent Coordinator can be provided upon request.

How are sessions structured and where do they take place?

Sessions are conducted in the office located in New City across from the Rockland County Courthouse. While waiting for a joint session to begin each party has the opportunity to wait alone in his or her own private conference room. Sessions can be structured to meet the unique demands of the situation and may even be conducted by telephone, video conferencing or "shuttle diplomacy" when parties feel uncomfortable meeting in the same room.

When is it best to begin working with a PC?

Parents may begin the process:

  1. Prior to a divorce in an attempt to narrow the issues that will be subject to litigation or attorney negotiation.
  2. During divorce or Family Court litigation to attempt to resolve and/or narrow issues or to ensure compliance with temporary orders or agreements.
  3. After the conclusion of a divorce or Family Court matter to assist with:
    1. The transition to new co-parenting and family dynamics
    2. The interpretation and implementation of agreed upon rights/obligations
    3. The temporary modification of rights/obligations due to changes in life situation
    4. An attempt to resolve non-compliance issues or unanticipated conflicts without the need for further litigation
    5. Improving communication or simply to ensure a more "smooth" co-parenting relationship through the assistance of a trained neutral third party.

Do other significant individuals participate in the joint sessions?

Yes. The ultimate goal is to include all significant parenting figures in the process in order to work together as a focused team. The PC determines who will be included in the joint sessions and at what time. It is standard procedure to, at some point, include a new spouse or live-in relationship. However, this will not occur until the PC feels it is necessary and the co-parents are emotionally ready. The same applies to any significant relative who plays a role in raising the child or who may be contributing to the conflict (e.g. grandparents).

Do parents receive feedback from the PC regarding their part in the conflict?

Yes. During the sessions the parents are given feedback directly from the PC through written session feedback sheets.

What happens if a parent is cooperative during the process of Parent Coordination but becomes uncooperative after the parties have stopped having regular sessions?

In cases where there is concern that one or both parents will return to previous behaviors when the PC is not meeting regularly with the parties and monitoring the situation, the parties may elect to having regular "check in" sessions scheduled at any interval they deem appropriate (e.g. monthly, quarterly, bi-annually or annually).

What happens if a parent will not cooperate with the PC or refuses to participate in the process?

The PC generally informs all counsel that one or both parents have refused to comply or are creating an impasse that negatively impacts the child. If the parties have been directed to attend Parent Coordination as part of a Court Order or "So Ordered" Stipulation/Agreement, the PC may also contact the Court (with copies to all parties and counsel).

How are parents released or discharged from working with a Parent Coordinator?

Once moved to an "as needed" basis, parents are not required to schedule sessions unless problems arise that they are unable to resolve. Those parties that are assigned to PC by Court Order with an indefinite appointment may generally be released by a signed written agreement of the parties or a subsequent Court Order.

What if there is an Order of Protection or one parent is uncomfortable being in the same room with their co-parent?

PCs are trained to work in circumstances of this kind and have learned techniques that will assure both parties are as comfortable and safe as possible. The office can provide a comfortable space for both parties to participate in the Parent Coordination process even if they are not working in the same room. If there is an Order or Protection in place, the PC can communicate with counsel for the parents (or the Court directly if the parties are unrepresented) to obtain an Order clarifying that attendance at Parent Coordination sessions will be an exception to any "stay away" or "non-communication" terms in any Order of Protection. In addition, the PC can develop additional protective measures individually tailored to the needs of each case.

Are there any state standards written on Parent Coordination or a licensing board to monitor quality control and/or ethical standards?

Unfortunately, at this time, there are no separate licenses or standardized training required for Parent Coordinators and therefore, no licensing boards in any of the states. Standards are being addressed throughout the country. The only organization devoted to the practice of parent coordination is the National Parent Coordinator's Association (NPCA). Members are listed by state and providence at www.parentingcoordinationcentral.com.

PC's working with the Law Office of Peter L. Jameson, PLLC, are "Certified" Parent Coordinators as they have completed a minimum 20 hour on-site Parent Coordination Training with the Cooperative Parenting Institute (Atlanta, Georgia) — the first and largest national organization devoted exclusively to the training and development of Parent Coordination. Additionally, all PC's working with the Law Office of Peter L. Jameson, PLLC, are required to attend frequent advanced training and continuing education through the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, the Association for Conflict Resolution and the Cooperative Parenting Institute.

In addition, Peter L. Jameson is a duly licensed and practicing family law attorney as well as trained and certified Mediator.

Does the PC ever testify in court and can they make a custody recommendation?

Parent Coordination is deliberately designed to be a "non-confidential" process. Thus, a PC may be called to testify regarding his or her observations if either parent files a motion or serves a subpoena requiring such testimony. Additionally, a PC may disclose his or her observations if the Court, both parties and/or their respective counsel request a final "report" from the PC. The need to have a PC testify in Court should not be considered "failure" and can, in fact, be viewed as a different form of "success" (even though it is not the preferred goal).

A PC will not, under any circumstances, make a custody recommendation to the Court. The PC may however, share observations of the parties' behavior, concerns regarding time sharing arrangements, co-parenting abilities, each parent's strengths and weaknesses, and each parent's contribution to the conflict.

For answers to more of your questions about Parent Coordination, please contact the Law Office of Peter L. Jameson, PLLC, directly at 845-213-3364 or by email.