Divorce creates many emotions, and these emotions may cloud your judgment during attempts to co-parent your children with your former partner. This results in parents letting their own issues come ahead of what is in the best interest of the children. To prevent these situations, I recommend working with a parent coordinator.
Parent coordination is an emerging field where trained mental health professionals help divorcing parents learn how to separate their conflicted thoughts and feelings about their former spouse with the responsibility of co-parenting. Parent coordinators help each person understand how to make decisions based on what is in the best interest of their children in a manner that promotes functional co-parenting.
How it works
At the beginning of the divorce, parents often find that sharing information is a struggle. It becomes a challenge to agree on the children’s activities, events, etc. A parent coordinator will work with both parents –working with only one parent is a parent counselor — to serve as an educator, a mediator, and a negotiator. They will help parents learn how to carve out a new territory in a manner that best addresses the needs of the children. They also guide the parents on how to work together in a fair and equitable manner.
It is far better to start working with a parent coordinator early in the divorce process. As time goes on, each parent begins to solidify their areas of discord. Working with a parent coordinator as soon as a couple separates will help them learn to disconnect the thoughts and emotions related to the divorce from the thoughts and emotions that should focus on the children.
How do I find a good parent coordinator?
You can find a list of local parent coordinators through either your divorce lawyer or the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC). I recommend that you meet with
two or three coordinators so that you can choose someone who you think will be the best fit. To determine this, think about how comfortable you will be working through various difficult issues with this person. The coordinator should understand you and your specific situation. They should also understand the dynamics and challenges between you and your former partner, as well as the relationship between each of you and your children.
What should I expect?
In the beginning, you and your former spouse will meet with the parent coordinator in person. You will usually create a shared calendar system and communicate via email or text between sessions. Often, the parent coordinator will request that you cc them on all emails in the beginning. Once you have developed the ability to co-parent without conflict, then the need for a parent coordinator will be reduced to situations where you cannot reach an agreement.
The length of time parents work with a parent coordinator varies. Some may only need one for a couple of months while others may work with their coordinator on an as-needed basis until the children are living on their own.
Are there situations where a parent coordinator will not work?
Parent coordination typically won’t work if a gross inequity in power or perceived power remains. It’s also ineffective when one parent has such an extreme amount of anger and/or hostility towards the other parent that they are incapable of working together. It is possible that the parent coordinator isn’t the right fit for the parents, but if you have failed one or two coordinators, then it’s usually an indication that co-parenting may not be a viable option. In that case, you should explore sole custody.
Successfully working with a parent coordinator will result in divorced parents who can effectively communicate and negotiate about issues that are in the best interest of the children. This process allows each parent to move on with their life while respecting the other parent and discussing their children in a mutually compatible manner.