Parenting Coordination

A power struggle collapses when you withdraw your energy from it. Power struggles become uninteresting to you when you change your intention from winning to learning about yourself.

Gary Zukav

Parenting Coordination Training

Several times per year, we offer a 40-hour virtual Parenting Coordination training for professionals seeking to become trained parenting coordinators. Each participant will gain the knowledge, skills, and practical tools to work as a parenting coordinator from highly skilled professionals, including two lawyers, a psychologist, and a Family Law Magistrate. Graduates will receive a certificate of completion for a 40-hour parenting coordination training upon completion of all training modules. This training is consistent with the recommendations for comprehensive training of parenting coordinators, Appendix A, of the Guidelines for Parenting Coordination developed by the AFCC Task Force on Parenting Coordination (2019). This training also meets the requirements of Maryland Rule 9-205.2.

Parenting Coordination is a non-confidential, child-centered process designed to assist parents in reducing conflict experienced by children of separation and divorce. It is a form of dispute resolution whereby the parents and the Parenting Coordinator (“PC”) work as a team to create actionable resolutions to areas of conflict. The PC can help parents develop an agreed-upon parenting plan for custody and parenting time if no plan is in place.

The PC is an impartial mental health professional or family lawyer who is highly skilled and trained in working with families of separation and divorce to reach timely resolutions for families in conflict. The PC may serve as a “tie-breaker” to make decisions which are legally binding, as agreed upon by the parents. The PC may testify as a witness in trial in the event the parties are unable to resolve their conflicts.

Yes. Maryland Rule 9-205.2 provides for the appointment of parenting coordinators in Maryland.

Parenting Coordinators have varying requirements to serve in jurisdictions throughout the United States. In Maryland, the Court may only appoint a Parenting Coordinator who has met the qualifications for appointment set forth in MD Rule 9-205.2(c). Parent Coordinators are generally licensed psychotherapists or attorneys who are trained in mediation, child development, high conflict divorce, domestic violence, as well as parenting coordination. Laura is a PC that meets the requirements of a PC pursuant to Maryland Rule 9-205.2(c). She has completed 40 hours of Parenting Coordination training, 20 hours of Child Access Mediation training, 40 hours of Divorce Mediation training and is a trained Best Interest Attorney for Children. Laura is also trained a in collaborative law.

Usually the PC is granted limited authority to make simple and temporary modifications to visitation and custody. This authority is conferred by court order or consent of the parties. Any changes are put in place to reduce stress for the children. For example, it might be wise to change a transfer time or location for a few weeks to alleviate a child’s stress at transfer. Ultimately, a parent’s visitation rights cannot be altered in any way by the PC absent parental agreement or court order. Unless both parents agree to a modification after a trial period, the visitation pattern reverts to the original plan as outlined in their order. However, the PC may make recommendations to the parents and the court about those parenting issues that the parents were unable to resolve to assist the parties in improving their parenting style as well as inform the court about those issues.

The PC cannot modify custody. The PC can facilitate the parents reaching agreements about modifications to custody and any parenting issues. The PC cannot serve dual roles, as both a PC and a Mediator, Child’s Attorney, Parent’s Attorney, or therapist.

The parents execute a consent order or PC agreement to begin work with Laura as their PC. The parents meet for an initial session, usually scheduled for 2 hours, via zoom. The PC issues a memorandum (“PC Memo”) after each session memorializing topics discussed, and agreements reached. The PC Memos help reduce costs for parents in communicating with attorneys and allow everyone on the team to be held accountable for progress made, and homework necessary. At the end of each session the team determines when to schedule the next sessions. At the beginning of each session the PC will gather agenda items from each parent to address areas for resolution.

The parents and/or guardians of the children attend sessions. Attorneys do not attend PC sessions. The PC Memo summarizes and memorializes the topics addressed, agreements reached, and homework assignments made during sessions. Copies of the PC Memo are shared with attorneys and other professionals if approved by the parents and are subject to subpoena if the case does not settle.

A typical meeting is scheduled for 2 hours. Regular meetings are important to build trust between the parents and the PC. Unlike mediation, Parenting Coordination is an ongoing process, whereby the team meets on a regular basis. As parents learn how to resolve disputes outside of the Parenting Coordination sessions, fewer meetings are needed. After parents address their pending conflicts, the team will either meet quarterly, or as needed when issues arise. The PC is a safety net for parents, to assist in avoiding future litigation such as contempt and modification actions.

When working with Laura, parents divide the costs of sessions, which saves them the time and money involving two lawyers in the litigation process. Payment is required upon issuance of the Parenting Coordination invoice after each session, or as otherwise determined by any Court Order. Parents typically divide the costs equally, unless otherwise agreed upon. Parents are charged for time in sessions, drafting PC Memos after each session, and any additional work performed by Laura and memorialized in billing records. Unless otherwise agreed upon, individual parent sessions are charged to that parent. Sessions are typically scheduled for 1 to 2 hours.

The length of the PC’s term is established by the consent order or agreement reached between the parties, or if the PC is appointed by the Court pending a trial, the length of term is determined by the Pre-Judgment Order for the Appointment of a Parenting Coordinator. If appointed by the Court, unless sooner terminated in accordance with Maryland Rule 9-205.2, the appointment of the Parenting Coordinator shall not exceed two years from the entry of an Order. The parties and the Parenting Coordinator may agree in writing to an extension for a specified longer period.

No therapist-patient relationship and/or privilege is created between the Parenting Coordinator and the clients/parents. Communication between the Parenting Coordinator and the parties is not confidential. The role that is confused the most with Parenting Coordination is that of co-parenting counselor. The major difference is that co-parent counseling is a confidential process, and information gathered through co-parent counseling cannot be shared with the Court. They may appear to be the same service because co-parenting counseling assists the parents to work more effectively as co-parents for the betterment of the child. A Co-parent counselor lacks authority to report non compliance. Parenting Coordinators are expected to testify when needed. Therefore, monitoring of parental behaviors and compliance with court orders cannot be accomplished through co-parent counseling. Parent Coordination is a non-confidential process, and holds the behaviors and conduct of parents accountable Rarely do Parenting Coordinators have to testify. Usually the knowledge that the Parenting Coordinator could testify, is enough to compel meaningfully engagement and best efforts by each parent.

Parenting Coordination is a non-confidential process, whereas Mediation is confidential. PC’s can testify in Court, while Mediators cannot testify in Court. A PC is impartial, having no allegiance to either parent, but able to take sides on disputed issues. A Mediator is a neutral, who does not express an opinion on disputed issues. Mediation is incorporated as an integral part of the Parenting Coordination process, and the PC uses mediation as a means to help parents reach mutual agreements.

A Pre-judgment Parenting Coordination Order, may be entered by the Court during the pendency of any trial regarding custody, to require the parents to work with a Parenting Coordinator to assist the parents in reducing any conflicts related to co-parenting. Then Parenting Coordinator may be called at trial as a fact witness about the parents’ attendance and engagement during PC sessions at any trial, but may not provide an expert opinion or recommendation regarding the final resolution of custody. A Custody Evaluation may be ordered by the Court, and involves an independent evaluator investigating and gathering information to prepare a custody evaluation and report which includes an expert recommendation regarding custody.

A Parenting Coordinator is a non-confidential neutral role and therefore a PC cannot serve as both a PC and a child’s attorney, therapist, or mediator. Maryland law is silent on the issue of dual roles for Parenting Coordination, however, the AFCC Task Force on Parenting Coordination strictly advises against dual roles, since there is no privilege or confidentiality in the PC process.

  • Shielding the child from conflict;
  • Allowing the child to love both parents;
  • Reducing the child’s stress;
  • Improving the co-parent relationship;
  • Developing protocols for coordination of care for the child’s medical and educational needs;
  • Increasing parental cooperation and respect;
  • Teaching effective communication skills;
  • Monitoring any attempts at alienation;
  • Mediating (pre-divorce) or clarify an existing parenting plan;
  • Reducing future litigation;
  • Monitoring parental behaviors and compliance with court orders;
  • Assisting Parents with protocols for improved communication;
  • Reporting non-compliance to attorneys; Referring those involved for necessary services; and As a last resort, providing testimony for the trier of fact.

Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood (0-17 years) such as experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect; witnessing violence in the home; having a family member attempt or die by suicide. Also included are aspects of the child’s environment that can undermine their sense of safety, stability, and bonding such as growing up in a household with instability due to parental separation, substance misuse, and mental health problems. ACEs have been widely studied for thirty years.

“A large and growing body of research indicates that toxic stress during childhood can harm the most basic levels of the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems, and that such exposures can even alter the physical structure of DNA (epigenetic effects). Changes to the brain from toxic stress can affect such things as attention, impulsive behavior, decision-making, learning, emotion, and response to stress. Absent factors that can prevent or reduce toxic stress, children growing up under these conditions often struggle to learn and complete schooling. They are at increased risk of becoming involved in crime and violence, using alcohol or drugs, and engaging in other health-risk behaviors (e.g., early initiation of sexual activity; unprotected sex; and suicide attempts). They are susceptible to disease, illness, and mental health challenges over their lifetime. Children growing up with toxic stress may have difficulty forming healthy and stable relationships. They may also have unstable work histories as adults and struggle with finances, family, jobs, and depression throughout life—the effects of which can be passed on to their own children.”

-2019 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s publication, Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): Leveraging the Best Available Evidence

Yes! What we know is that adverse childhood experiences are preventable. PC’s can help prevent ACEs, by teaching and promoting parenting skills that help create safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for children.

Parenting Coordination allows parents to be seen and heard through a non-judgmental process with a highly skilled PC. Courts often label parents as “high conflict.” Many parents report that the stress from separation and litigation is traumatic. Parents who are emotionally dysregulated by separation and divorce, often struggle with communication and decision making with their co-parent. Parenting Coordination saves parents time, money, and promotes emotional well-being. Decisions that need timely resolution can be addressed more effectively with a PC than incurring costs and experiencing delays of family courts, particularly since the Global Pandemic.

Parenting Coordination was originally developed as process for parents with high degrees of conflict, with numerous allegations against each other, who engage in frequent litigation and have a chronic inability to communicate regarding child rearing. Parenting Coordination is also appropriate for rigid, mistrusting parents, those with mental health issues, substance abuse, and/or those with joint custody who need timely resolution to impasses. Parenting Coordination can also be useful for any parents who need support in improving the co-parenting relationship, in reducing conflict experienced by their child(ren), and for assistance with implementing parenting plans. Not all parents who benefit from Parenting Coordination are “high conflict” individuals. During the Global Pandemic, many co-parents faced unanticipated decisions, not included in their court orders or parenting agreements. Court closings and delays, meant that these unnavigated territories for co-parents could not be resolved timely with court intervention. Laura worked with countless parents during the pandemic managing family Covid-19 protocols, virtual and in-person learning decisions, vaccination discussions, socialization and extracurricular decisions and more. If there are unanticipated parenting decisions and issues not included in a parenting plan, a Parenting Coordinator can timely assist parents in reaching resolutions, and developing amendments as needed to the plans. Parents should not have to spend the money litigating such issues, and waiting for delayed Court dates, which all negatively impact the child(ren).