Parenting Coordination Program helps high-conflict co-parents resolve disputes out of court
When divorced couples are having a hard time co-parenting, sometimes a Parenting Coordination Program can help.
Commerce Township Family Lawyer Kathryn Wayne-Spindler has more than 20 years of experience as an attorney helping high-conflict divorce clients. She believes that a Parenting Coordination Program has great benefits to the children who may be suffering because of divorced parents who are always fighting. “The divorce and custody process may separate the parents,” says Wayne-Spindler, “but the children are still impacted by the ongoing fighting. They need someone to advocate for them when both parents are too caught up in ongoing legal battles to consider the children’s welfare. The Parenting Coordinator can fill this role.”
A Parenting Coordinator or Parenting Coordination Team is primarily in charge of keeping the children’s best interests at the forefront of post-divorce decision-making. The PC acts as a mediator between ex-spouses as they seek non-litigious solutions to parenting disagreements.
The PC helps with:
- Parenting Plan Development
- Diffusing Parental Conflict
- Reducing Court Appearances
- Managing instructions from doctors, therapists, teachers, and the courts
The Parenting Coordination Program can be initiated voluntary or by consent in court-order for high-conflict couples who frequently seek legal intervention for resolving parenting disputes. Both parties sign a Consent Order acknowledging the authority of the PC regarding:
- Educational decisions
- Parenting time schedules (including holidays and vacation)
- Daily Care including bedtime, diet, clothing, after-school activities, and discipline
- Medical decisions
- Religious matters
Although a Parenting Coordinator is assigned to work primarily with the parents, he or she represents the best interests of the children and has access to all of their medical and academic records as well as the legal records of both parents. There is no confidentiality or client-therapist/client-attorney privilege. The PC is charged with facilitating negotiations between the parents. Both parents agree that the PC may make decisions regarding their conflicts. The PC makes recommendations to the Friend of the Court and the divorced parties have the opportunity to respond to these determinations.
The PC may not:
- Be employed solely by one party for the purpose of coercion
- Offer the family other advice including psychological, legal or financial
- Perform any medical or psychologically analysis
Paying for a Parenting Coordination Program
Both parties share the expense for the Parenting Coordinator; although their contributions may not be equal based on their financial situations. The PC also reserves the right to reallocate the distribution of the fees if he/she believes that “the need for his services is attributable to the unreasonable conduct and/or intransigence of one party, or if the party makes legitimate but disproportionate use of his services,” according to a sample Consent Order used for the appointment of a Parenting Coordination Team.
Term of Appointment
The couple, in coordination with the PC, determines a term of appointment and agrees to it in the Consent Order. Any disagreements during that time period are subject to the Parenting Coordinator’s authority. Although either parent may take legal action to have the PC removed from the case, they must first confer with the PC in an effort to resolve grievances.
Frequency of Meetings
Initially, the PC and both parents may meet regularly (1-4 times/month) to hammer out specifics of the parenting plans and become accustomed to the relationship. Eventually, the PC may be called upon only in specific instances of disagreement or crisis.
Finding a Parenting Coordinator
There are public and private parenting coordinators. Each County’s Friend of the Court department can suggest PC services. Ex-spouses may agree to a private PC. Parenting Coordinators should have completed mediation training and have a mental health degree and licensure and/or a legal license and bar membership in the State of Michigan. A Parenting Coordinator should have at least five years of experience with high-conflict divorces.
White Lake Divorce Attorney Kathryn Wayne-Spindler recommends high-conflict co-parents consent to a Parenting Coordination Program. She has years of experience with divorces and sees the damage the fighting does to the children. For more information about signing a Parenting Coordination Consent Order contact the law office of Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates at 248-676-1000 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Wayne-Spindler practices throughout Southeastern Michigan including Oakland, Washtenaw, Wayne, Genesee and Livingston counties and the communities of Milford, Highland, Hartland, White Lake, Commerce, South Lyon, New Hudson, Wixom, Holly, and Fenton.
Written and Posted by Christine Donlon Long, Communications’ Specialist for Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates