A co-parenting coordinator has both the appropriate skills and expertise, and adequate authority. The combination of skills and authority enables the co-parenting coordinator to help you in a way that no others have.
While there are many things that typically cause problems, they generally all stem from one of two general dynamics or situations.
- One parent has disengaged and has abandoned his/her parental responsibility, leaving the other to bear a very large burden at a difficult time.
- One parent is trying to exclude the other, sometimes to the point of inculcating parental alienation.
Co-parenting coordination was developed to address the conflict associated with the second dynamic, exclusion, but the Canadian Co-parenting Centres recognize that a great many parents struggle with the first situation. We believe that co-parenting coordination can be helpful in those situations as well.
In both situations, there needs to be someone that knows very clearly what is going on, and that someone needs to be willing and able to do something about it.
It is important to note that just having a co-parenting coordinator in place can greatly reduce the amount of inappropriate behaviour. How many people will speed when a policeman is driving beside them? Installation of a video camera in a convenience store will greatly deter theft. Adding a referee to an athletic competition will dramatically influence the behaviour of the players. The same is true with co-parenting coordination.
It is impossible to describe specifically how co-parenting coordination works, because it is somewhat different for every family, so when you read the general description below, please be aware that the co-parenting coordination can be structured to meet your specific needs.
Before proceeding, please ensure that you have read How coPC Works, In General.
Starting the Process
The co-parenting coordination process will start in one of three ways. By consent, by court order, or by the initiation of one parent.
If by consent, one or both parents will contact the Canadian Co-Parenting Centres and make an inquiry/request. You will be asked to complete a New Client Intake Form so that we have things like your contact information and a very brief background of your circumstances. An initial appointment with a co-parenting coordinator will booked.
The initial session can be either joint, or an individual session with each parent. There are pros and cons to each. In a joint session, each parent knows what the other said to the co-parenting coordinator and has an opportunity to respond or comment from their own perspective. On the downside, each parent has to endure all the negative stuff that the other parent has to say, one more time. That will create an initial spike in the conflict. With individual sessions, each parent can be candid and perhaps even blunt, without the risk of escalating the conflict. An individual session also allows the co-parenting coordinator start building a working relationship with each parent. When the co-parenting coordinator speaks to you about booking the first appointment(s) he or she will discuss whether the first session should be joint or not.
If co-parenting coordination is court ordered, the process will start in a way similar to that described above. The only difference may be that you had a brief discussion with the co-parenting coordinator in the process of determining who would be the assigned co-parenting coordinator.
Often, co-parenting coordination is initiated by one of the parents. They perceive co-parenting coordination as a solution to the problems they are experiencing so they contact us. Often, they are concerned that the other parent will not agree to engage in the process. In these situations, we recommend an initial meeting with the parent who contacted us. Then, with a general sense of what the circumstances are, the co-parenting coordinator will usually suggest that he or she contact the other parent. You, the initiating parent, will be asked to simply confirm that it is ok for our co-parenting coordinator to call. When the co-parenting coordinator calls the other parent, he or she introduces co-parenting coordination to that parent in a way that highlights the benefits that they will realize. In other words, your ex, who you think won't be willing to engage, probably has lots of issues and frustrations of their own, justified or not. Playing to these issues and frustrations, the potentially reluctant parent can often be enticed into an initial individual meeting. In that meeting they will get a clear understanding of how the co-parenting coordination process works and how it will benefit them and the children.
After the Co-parenting Coordination Agreement is signed.
Note that each co-parenting coordination agreement is customized to meet the particular needs of each family.
The first step is to identify the various issues. Not necessarily all of them, but the most important and most pressing for sure.
The next step is to prioritize the issues and determine how to best proceed on which ones.
If there is no parenting plan in place, creating one would be one of the first few tasks. If there is a parenting plan in place, more detail and clarifications may need to be added. Either way, parenting plans are expected to evolve and change over time. Many circumstances change over time, including the developmental stages of the children.
Doing the work.
Co-parenting coordination is not an easy process. Not for the co-parenting coordinator and not for the parents. Working through the issues will be difficult and the co-parenting coordinator will sometimes be a bit of a task master.
One way or another, issues need to be resolved and solutions need to be put in place. If education and mediation are not sufficient, then the co-parenting coordinator will make a decision, but unlike a judge, the co-parenting coordinator knows the family and the circumstances intimately. The co-parenting coordinator will also be in a position to monitor the impact of all decisions, so that they can be modified if necessary.
Most issues will be legitimate challenges, with each parent having a reasonable perspective on the pros and cons. As described above, the co-parenting coordinator will help the parents reach agreement on a solution, or make a decision for them.
Some of these issues will be an either or choice with a balance of pros and cons that make it impossible to choose. As crazy as it sounds, these issues may need to be resolved with a simple coin toss.
Sometimes, one parent is being quite reasonable and the other is being intransigent. In those situations, the co-parenting coordinator will apportion the charges to the person who was being unreasonable. Without the ability to apportion fees, one person could financially abuse the other by forcing them both to incur costs.
Emergency Intervention and Assistance
When there is interference with one parent's time with the children, the co-parenting coordinator can be called to assist right away, and then a meeting would generally be held afterwards to review the incident.
If the parents have attempted to discuss and resolve an issue on their own, but it was unsuccessful, and now one parent just hangs up the phone when the other calls, co-parenting coordinator can be called to facilitate the discussion and resolution of the issue over the phone. Sometime, parents will proactively request the co-parenting coordinator's assistance knowing that conflict will likely ensue.
The co-parenting coordinator's goal is to work themselves out of a job. In other words, help the parents get to a place where the assistance of the co-parenting coordinator is no longer required.
In the event that a particularly contentious issue arises in the future, the co-parenting coordinator who already knows the family well, can be asked to assist again.
The Disengaged Parent
Working with a family where one parent has disengaged and abandoned his/her parental responsibility, is potentially more difficult than working with highly conflicted parents where one or both are behaving very badly.
Leverage such as apportioning fees and reporting to the court are not of any use.
In these situations, the approach of the co-parenting coordinator is slower and more nurturing. Often, improving the relationship between the children and the disengaged parent, perhaps improving the disengaged parent's parenting skills and confidence, and conveying to the disengaged parent the importance of their continued involvement in the children's lives, can gradually re-engage them.
The co-parenting coordinator can ensure that adequate resources are provided to the children and the parent that is doing all the work.