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Parenting Coordination

Gassaway Family MediationIf I have been appointed parenting coordinator in your case or if you are considering me as a parenting coordinator, it is important that you keep a number of things in mind about the process of parenting coordination. 

First, you should keep in mind that the statutes dictate that a parenting coordinator’s job is to assist parents in identifying disputed issues, reducing misunderstandings, clarifying priorities, exploring possibilities for compromise, developing methods of collaboration in parenting, and complying with the court’s order of custody, visitation, or guardianship.  My personal philosophy concerning that process is that to the extent possible, I try to help you and the other parent reach solutions to the issues with which you are faced.  In doing so, I generally communicate with both of you about whatever issue you are facing and try to get you to come to a conclusion with which you can live, rather than imposing my recommendation on you.

In certain cases, of course, I have to determine that parents are simply not going to agree on a particular issue and I have to make a recommendation to the Court of what I think should occur.  When I do that, it will be in the form of a written report to the Court to which either of you will be able to object if you wish.

I generally believe that if you can keep your issues and your children out of the courthouse rather than in, you are serving your children better.  If I can help you do that as your parenting coordinator, then I believe the process has worked.

Second, I try to avoid having to act as a “fact finder” in disputes you may be having.  Frankly, I normally find that when parents are vehemently disagreeing on a particular issue, their respective versions of what happened are quite dissimilar.  Attempting to dissect the facts and determine which version I believe is rarely helpful.  I much prefer to try to assist you in addressing the issue as it pertains to your children and in reaching a solution that is in their best interest, irrespective of which story is accurate and which is not.

Third, it is important that you understand that (as opposed to your discussions with your lawyer) your conversations with me are not privileged.  I can be called to testify in any court proceeding in which you become involved.  Outside of court, however, I will not go out of my way to repeat things you tell me if I think they are simply going to be provocative and possibly not in the best interest of your children.  My job is to try to assist you in carrying out what is in your children’s best interest, not in getting you agitated by telling you something the other parent said that will not be helpful in solving a problem.

I will not have any conversations with the assigned judge in your case about your case.  That is strictly forbidden by the statute.

Fourth, I generally prefer that parties handle their communication by email, rather than text.  If you and the other parent can effectively communicate by telephone or in person, by all means continue to do that (unless your attorney advises you differently), but if you cannot, keep in mind that email provides a paper trail of your communication.  Assuming you are emailing each other, if it involves an issue about which you have sought my assistance, or which you think you might need my assistance on in the future if you fail to reach an agreement, please copy me on your email.  I do not bill you for time spent in glancing over those emails and filing them; I start billing time in those cases when one of you asks me to address the issue about which you have been emailing, and I then go back and review the emails in order to understand your position on the issue.

It is not necessary that you include me on every email between you and the other party if they involve minor issues about which I am not likely to be consulted.

Fifth, I normally find that it is helpful to have an initial meeting with parties.  My experience has been that in cases where parents have chosen to have a parenting coordinator, or in cases where the Court orders that a parenting coordinator be put in place, it is often helpful to have an initial meeting to address your situation, even if everything seems to be going well at the time.

I think too often parents are inclined to contact their parenting coordinator only when there is a problem and they are looking for a solution to the problem.  While all cases are different, in a typical case parenting coordination is useful in providing a forum to address and reach agreements on many issues concerning your future efforts to co-parent your child/children.  When properly conducted, initial meetings can be helpful and result in fewer later problems because of the nature and extent of the agreements you and the parenting coordinator reach.  In fruitful initial meetings, we will address a variety of issues, including parenting guidelines and principles, parental communication, parenting time and changes to the schedule, transitions/transportation, holidays and vacations, extracurricular activities, clothing, daily decisions, major decisions, travel, moves and future dispute resolution.  In addition, I realize that parenting coordination is probably something with which you are not familiar, and an initial meeting allows you to more clearly develop an understanding of the process of parenting coordination.

Despite your divorce/separation, you are going to be working together as parents until your child/children become an adult/adults.  Because of that, I prefer that initial meetings occur with both parents at the same time, but I will accommodate your requests that they be conducted separately.

If both of you agree that an opening meeting is unnecessary, I am certainly willing to forego such a meeting.  If so, please let me or my office know.

Parenting coordination meetings normally occur without any attorneys being present, but if you want your attorney to attend any meetings, you are more than welcome to do so.  Again, if that is what you desire, let us know and we will include your attorney in our scheduling efforts.

My hourly rate is $225.00 per hour. 

Sixth, following is a draft version of an agreement I ask new parenting coordination clients to sign.  If I become your parenting coordinator, we will formalize this document for your case.

Seventh, despite the differences between the parties, it is crucial that the impact of this litigation upon the child/children be minimized.  Therefore, it is strongly suggested that neither of you speak of the pending litigation in front of the child/children and that you be careful of what you say over the phone if the child/children is/are able to hear.  In addition, for the child/children’s sake, neither parent should speak poorly or critically of the other parent.  It is the parent’s responsibility to protect the child/children from as much exposure and negative impact from this case as possible.

Finally, you should remember that as Parenting Coordinator, I am not a second attorney from whom the parties may seek additional legal advice.

Gassaway Family Mediation Parenting Coordination AgreementDownload the Gassaway Family Mediation Parenting Coordination Agreement here.