WHY DO I FIGHT MORE WITH MY FORMER SPOUSE SINCE THE DIVORCE? THE ROLE OF THE PARENTING COORDINATOR

by Dawn E. Wellman July, 2011

Divorced parents often have difficulty even agreeing on what day of the week it is. They bicker and argue by text, phone and email. The parenting time pickup and drop off times, dealing with extracurricular activities, parenting time schedules and whether a child should get braces are all almost impossible issues to resolve by agreement for some divorced parents. They go to court over and over and only baby steps in the right direction are taken. The judge rarely does what the parents feel is reasonable and just for their circumstances. Going to court is also time consuming and costly.

If you identify with any of the above, you may need a parenting coordinator. If a parenting coordinator is appointed by the court or if the parties agree to use one, both parents, without their lawyers, will sit down with the coordinator and set out an agenda of issues they would like to tackle and resolve. The issues can be anything from whether Joe should play AAU baseball to whether Kelly needs a tutor in math and who is going to pay for it. The parenting coordinator then works together with the parents to try to come to some agreement on both of their agendas. With the permission of the parents, the parenting coordinator can contact teachers, pastors, coaches and therapists or other third parties to get information which will help the parents be better informed and resolve their conflicts. The parents can meet in the parenting coordinator's office or they may attempt to negotiate by telephone or email.

Generally, the cost of a parenting coordinator is less than what an attorney may charge and the parties are splitting the cost of the hourly rate of the coordinator. Some coordinators bill the person who generated the email or the phone call so that one party is not penalized for more contact than the other parent. However, most parenting coordinators make sure that all parents know about all communication so that nothing is secret between the parents. Neither parent may privately work their own agenda.

Sometimes courts allow parenting coordinators to be the vote which breaks the tie between the parents and make recommendations to the court on a particular issue. However, parenting coordination does not take the place of going to court. If one or both of the parents disagree with the recommendation made by the parenting coordinator, they may petition the court within an appropriate time frame to have the court decide the issue.

The benefits of parenting coordination are many for both the parents and children. It is less expensive to pay a parenting coordinator because both you and your ex-spouse are footing the bill. Both parties are motivated to resolve the conflict because they are both paying. In the parental meetings, coordinators help the parents leave the baggage of the marriage behind and teach them to focus on issues at hand and teach them healthy communication skills. Both parents have a place to vent if that is how they choose to use the parenting coordinator.

However, the biggest benefit of a parenting coordinator is for the children. Many studies have shown that children of divorce whose parents are always arguing about petty and not so petty issues are less well adjusted, do more poorly in school and may suffer depression. Children should not be the battle ground for leftover, unresolved marital conflict. Use the parenting coordinator as a way to resolve those issues and learn effective post-divorce parenting. Your children will be happier for it.

(Dawn E. Wellman, a partner and litigation attorney in the firm, is also a parenting coordinator. If you are interested in learning more about Ms. Wellman's practice and her parenting coordinator services or how to contact her directly, click on her name at the top of the page).