What Is a Parenting Coordinator?

A parenting coordinator could make your divorce case a little easier. When dealing with complicated and emotional child custody and support matters during a marital split, most families can use all the help they can get. Parenting coordinators are the divorce court's answer to high-conflict custody cases. Find out what a parenting coordinator does, when the courts might appoint one during a divorce, and how to make the most out of your coordinator if you do end up working with one in California.

What Does a Parenting Coordinator Do?

Parenting coordination is child-centered dispute resolution that combines mediation, parent education, and conflict management. A parenting coordinator can be an attorney, nurse, psychiatrist, psychologist, or behavioral therapist. To qualify as a coordinator, an individual must have a proper license and have received at least six hours of child and domestic abuse training. Parenting coordinators also must have forensic training on issues such as high-conflict families, child development, relocation, family court law, informed consent, abuse, and other such issues. The main roles of a parenting coordinator are:

  • Meeting with parents and children to resolve disputes
  • Interviewing family members, doctors, schools, and other parties for relevant information
  • Offering advice to day-to-day issues parents experience
  • Settling matters regarding holiday scheduling and child exchanges
  • Coming up with solutions to child health care, discipline, and school issues and activities
  • Making recommendations to the court regarding custody and parenting time

Remember, a parenting coordinator is not a judge. He or she is an unbiased third party who is there to simply make recommendations for dispute resolution. Parenting coordinators do not have the authority to recommend issues relating to child support, changes in custody, or substantial alterations to parenting time. They can, however, make recommendations in writing if they believe a child’s safety is at stake.

Could You Benefit From a Parenting Coordinator?

California statutes permit the courts to appoint a parenting coordinator in certain circumstances. In general, a couple might need a parenting coordinator if they are constantly in conflict with one another, if they argue about every aspect and activity of childcare, if one or both spouses has issues with substance abuse, if a child has special needs, or if there are concerns about either parent’s mental health. If appointing a parenting coordinator would be in the best interests of the child, that is what the courts will do.
Each county can create its own guidelines for parenting coordinators. For example, Monterey County laws state that the courts may appoint one if a divorce case involves child custody or visitation issues, upon stipulation of the parties and court approval. Check with your county courts to find out the exact procedures for using parenting coordinators. If you believe your family could benefit from a parenting coordinator, let the courts know that you wish to work with one. This might be the case if you feel you and your spouse cannot come to agreements about child custody or support on your own.
It generally costs between $200 and $400 per hour to work with a parenting coordinator. The couple will pay for the coordinator by splitting the costs equally or in proportion with their incomes. While this may seem expensive, it can be well worth the cost for many parents.

How to Make the Most of Your Parenting Coordinator

Choose the correct parenting coordinator for your family. Each option will bring something different to the table, depending on his/her profession, experience, and training. Determine your needs when deciding who to select. You and your spouse can pick a specific coordinator, or you can leave the assignment up to your attorneys. Then, attend meetings with your coordinator with an open mind. The goal is to compromise with your spouse for the benefit of your children. Coming to the table with an open mind can facilitate the process.