What Is a Parenting Coordinator?

Parenting coordinator talking to a couple and their child
April 14, 2022

A relatively new practice in family law, parenting coordination is a provision that can help families to resolve child custody disputes both during and after a divorce. A parenting coordinator brings in a neutral viewpoint and can help to reduce conflict while ensuring that established parental rights and responsibilities remain intact. With this skilled advice at the ready, parents can limit the potential for conflict, both during divorce and into the future.

Who Can Be a Parenting Coordinator?

A parenting coordinator is most often a third-party neutral individual who is either chosen by the family or appointed by the court to help mediate child custody and care guidelines. They help to establish and preserve parental rights and responsibilities. The same applies to companionship time orders. 

To be appointed, individuals must meet the following criteria:

Education: master’s degree or higher, law degree, or other forms of education and experience satisfactory to the court

Experience: minimum of two years professional experience involving children (e.g. parenting coordination, counseling, casework, mediation, legal representation as a child custody attorney or divorce attorney)

Training: 12 hours mediation; 40 hours specialized family or divorce mediation; 14 hours specialized in domestic abuse and mediation; 12 hours specialized in parenting coordination

As is evident by these requirements, a parenting coordinator is a qualified professional who has vast experience in dealing with matters involving families and children.

What Does a Parenting Coordinator Do?

A parenting coordinator is someone who assists families that are engaged in child custody disputes. Their goal is always to work out the best situation for the child(ren) involved. This impartial, third-party individual facilitates dispute resolution between parents and/or legal guardians. 

A central part of a parenting coordinator’s role is education. By using their formal training a coordinator can share details about a child’s specific developmental needs as well as the emotional and psychological effects of parental separation. The coordinator can offer informed suggestions on co-parenting and effective parental communication. All of this information can then help parents or guardians to value communication over conflict, and to focus on their children's wellbeing.

Once the parents’ specific rights and responsibilities are established, a parenting coordinator can help to ensure that parents are in compliance with agreed-upon arrangements. They also give parents an effective toolkit to work from so as to avoid future conflict. A coordinator is focused solely on a smooth transition for the family involved and does not function as a social worker, mediator, therapist, financial advisor, attorney, arbitrator, or to help develop a parenting plan. 

A parenting coordinator can be chosen by the family or the court, and the cost of their services is generally split between the divorcing parties. Depending on the situation, the court may decide that the amount each parent pays is based on their income or some other “good cause” determination. Once they are retained, the coordinator could choose to meet with parents in various ways: in person, via telephone, or by using a video conferencing platform.

Do I Need a Parenting Coordinator?

If there is a lot of conflict in a divorce proceeding regarding childcare and child custody, a parenting coordinator can help to facilitate better communication and resolution. A judge might decide that bringing in a parenting coordinator is in the best interest of the child if mediation has proven to be unsuccessful or has been deemed inappropriate in a certain case. If parents are denying a child’s emotional and/or physical access to the other party or extended family members, or if they refuse to share information about the child’s health, education, or welfare, a parenting coordinator may be necessary. 

A few other situations in which a parenting coordinator could be helpful: 

  • parents’ specific time schedules require frequent adjustments
  • child involved has a medical or psychological condition or disability that necessitates frequent treatment decisions or schedule adjustments
  • parent or guardian deals with a condition or disability that does not allow them to reach agreements on or make even minor adjustments to their respective parenting time schedules

Coordinators are also very helpful in cases labeled “high-conflict,” where parents or guardians have already filed many motions or have repeatedly gone to court in efforts to resolve their parenting disputes. Another situation in which a coordinator could be helpful is if the parents have had a frequent change in their representing lawyers.

If for any reason a parent or guardian does not agree with the coordinator’s decisions and feels the need to formally disagree, they can file an objection with the judge after receiving the coordinator’s report. In the end, the judge always has the final say when it comes to decisions on custody, visitation, and child support.

Why Work with a Parenting Coordinator?

If disputes just don’t seem to be resolving, a parenting coordinator can act as a “tie breaker.” Working within the guidelines of the parties’ court orders and agreements, the coordinator can step in to make quick decisions, saving clients frustration, time, and the cost of a lengthy court proceeding. In cases where mediation is either not fitting or was unsuccessful, a parenting coordinator can make the needed difference. 

More important than any other reason though, is that working with a parenting coordinator can help families to retain relationships. Couples that make use of parenting coordinators will often exit the divorce process a separated but still somewhat intact family unit when it comes to providing a loving and nurturing environment for their child(ren). This approach focuses first and foremost on the wellbeing of the children followed closely by parental rights and is a reliable way to reduce the otherwise harmful effects of conflict. All that said, there will be cases in which the process of coordination could potentially compromise the safety of a party involved. The court can best decide whether a coordinator will be a good fit.

Work with A Cleveland Child Custody Attorney

As you wade through the difficult stages of divorce and child custody, having an ally by your side is invaluable. Knowing that you’re supported by an expert is better still. At the Law Offices of Cara L. Santosuosso, you can be sure that you’ll work with an experienced child custody attorney who always has the best interests of you and your child at heart. Get in touch to learn more about our parent coordination services or to schedule a consultation. We’re ready to help your family.