Are you co-parenting with your former spouse (or your children’s other parent) and finding that it is a struggle to make decisions about your children? Do you and the other co-parent have conflicting views or opinions about the children’s best interests? Or perhaps you think you’d benefit from support in the event that parenting issues arise in the future? If you relate to any of those, then you may benefit from working with a “Parenting Coordinator”.

What is a Parenting Coordinator? 

A Parenting Coordinator is a specially trained neutral third-party who assists separated or divorced parents in implementing their parenting plan arrangements, improving communication when it comes to parenting-related issues that arise, and helping parents resolve disputes.

Parenting Coordinators are usually social workers, psychologists, family lawyers, mental health professionals, mediators, or arbitrators who have experience working with families going through a separation or divorce.

What Does a Parenting Coordinator Do?

A Parenting Coordinator can play several different roles when helping parents, depending on the specific needs and dynamics of the family.

Here are the key responsibilities and benefits of a Parenting Coordinator:

  1. Facilitate Communication Between Parents: Parents often struggle with communicating with one another when it comes to making parenting decisions, especially when the separation process was high conflict. A Parenting Coordinator acts as a bridge between parents, fostering open and constructive communication channels to ensure that both parties are heard and understood.
  2. Resolve Disputes: It is not unusual for parents to have different parenting styles. However, these differences can lead to further disagreements down the road. Given that the Parenting Coordinator is an objective third-party, they can act as a mediator between the parents to help them reach common ground.
  3. Implementing Parenting Plans: Parenting Coordinators assist in implementing parenting plans in ways that work practically and efficiently, with consideration given to the evolving needs of the children and changing family dynamics.
  4. Child-Centered Approach: Parenting Coordinators prioritize the well-being of the children above all else, ensuring that their needs and interests remain at the forefront of all discussions and decisions. By facilitating communication and assisting with resolving disputes between parents, a Parenting Coordinator helps establish stability and consistency for the children involved.
  5. Conflict Management: By addressing conflicts promptly and effectively, Parenting Coordinators can help prevent conflicts from escalating, minimizing the negative impact on both parents and children. When there’s less conflict, you are also less likely to end up in court. In turn, this will help parents save time, money, and the emotional distress associated with lengthy court battles.

What Are the Limitations of a Parenting Coordinator? 

It is important to note that a Parenting Coordinator does not decide major issues like decision-making responsibility or parenting time. Those issues are agreed to between the parents via a Separation Agreement or are decided by a judge via a Court Order.

Rather, should parents agree to engage a Parenting Coordinator, that Parenting Coordinator’s role is to assist with implementing the parenting arrangements set out in the Separation Agreement or Court Order. This means that a Parenting Coordinator helps work out the practical realities of the agreed upon or ordered parenting arrangements. For example, if a Court Order or Separation Agreement simply includes that the children must spend an equal amount of time with each parent during the summer, the Parenting Coordinator can assist parents with sorting out a detailed summer schedule.

A Parenting Coordinator can also assist parents in resolving minor issues, which may include but are not limited to the following:

  • Minor changes to a parenting plan such as vacations and holidays;
  • Scheduling activities and arranging pick up and drop offs for extra-curricular activities for the children;
  • Children’s travel and passport arrangements;
  • How a child’s personal belongings (such as clothing, toys, and school items) are moved between the parents’ homes.

However, if the parents cannot agree with how to implement a parenting arrangement or are otherwise at an impasse regarding a minor parenting issue, the Parenting Coordinator may decide for them. The process in which a Parenting Coordinator decides an issue is called a “secondary arbitration”, the decision of which is binding on the parents. The Parenting Coordinator’s decision is generally based on information received from the parents, professionals involved with the children (such as doctors, teachers, counsellors, etc.) and, only when necessary, from the children. You should however consult with a family law lawyer before you proceed with arbitration on any issues in your family law matter.

If you are currently facing parenting disputes with your former partner or would like to learn more about the role of the Parenting Coordinator in the family law process, please contact GDH Family Lawyers at 416-535-6944 or to book a FREE TELEPHONE CONSULTATION with one our lawyers.