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Parenting coordination is a child-focused dispute resolution process for separated families. Parenting coordination deals with parenting disputes arising after an agreement or order has been made about parental responsibilities, parenting time or contact. Parenting coordinators are experienced family law lawyers, mediators and arbitrators, counsellors, social workers and psychologists.
This section provides a provides a brief introduction to parenting coordination, an overview of the process, and links to some additional resources on parenting coordination.
When parents have a Separation Agreement or Court Order that establishes a parenting plan, but they are still fighting over the details, they may agree, or be Ordered by the Court, to have a Parenting Coordinator to assist them in resolving those issues instead of repeatedly coming back to Court. Parenting Coordination is a child-centered dispute resolution process aimed at high conflict personalities. As with all Family Dispute Resolution Professionals, the Parent Coordinator will meet with the parties separately prior to starting the process to screen for the presence of family violence.
What a Parent Coordinator Is A parent coordinator (PC) is a lawyer or mental health professional (psychologist, counsellor, social worker, family therapist) with specialized training in family law, mediation, arbitration, communications skills development, high confict family dynamics and child development . Parent Coordinators are members of the BC Parenting Coordinators Roster Society and governed by the Society as well as the Family Law Act, and the Family Law Act Regulation.
What a Parent Coordinator Does The parent coordinator provides parties who cannot agree on aspects of parenting with a relatively quick and informal way to resolve their disputes. Regardless of how detailed a parenting plan or order may be, some parents will always find things to argue about and it is the children who pay the price for this kind of parental behavior. A parent coordinator may be useful in minimizing that conflict by attempting to educate and coach the parents on how to manage conflict in a healthy way . If that doesn’t work the PC will mediate or, as a last resort, arbitrate the dispute between the parents. The long term goal of the PC is to enable the parents to parent in a healthy and supportive way, without the need for Parenting Coordinators or frequent applications to Court, although that goal may not be attainable for some parents.
Some examples of what a PC may do are: -deciding extra curricular activities and how they will be paid -deciding what school the child will attend -determining if a child needs tutoring, therapy or medical treatment -arranging parenting time for special events -deciding how a child’s belongings should be distributed between his or her parents’ homes -deciding the specifics of parenting time if the Agreement or Order is more general (for example the agreement says the parents will share time approximately equally but doesn’t say exactly how)
What a Parent Coordinator Doesn’t Do A parent coordinator does not; -make original orders for Parenting Time -make decisions changing custody or guardianship agreements or orders -deal with property division, spousal support, or child support (with the possible exception of special expenses) -deal with relocation
How the Parent Coordinator Works The PC is appointed by agreement or court order. An agreement or order appointing a parenting coordinator should specify who is being appointed; a list a of parenting coordinators is available at the website of BC Parenting Coordinators Roster Society. Because the PC role is relatively invasive in a family’s life, some PC’s offer an opportunity for the parents to have a relatively short meeting with him or her to meet each other and discuss the role, prior to the formal appointment, either at a fixed cost or no cost. Once the parents and the PC agree, they will enter a Parenting Coordination Agreement (http://www.bcparentingcoordinators.com/assets/pdfs/BCPCRS_standard_pc_agreement_template_sept_2014.pdf) for which they should have Independent Legal Advice. The PC Agreement sets out in some detail what the PC will do, how it will be done, the cost and how it is to be paid. The agreement also provides for the term of the arrangement. It may be as short as 6 months but most PC’s will require that the term be at least 12 to 24 months with an opportunity for the parents to renew the contract if the PC remains willing. Most PCs will require a retainer and/or a deposit of $5000 to $10,000 and up. The parents must each then pay their share of the parenting coordinator's retainer. As with a lawyer, the retainers paid to the parenting coordinator are security for the parenting coordinator's future bills. When such bills are issued, parenting coordinators will pay themselves by drawing on parties' retainers.
Some parenting coordinators will also ask for an additional retainer, called a deposit. This money is held in reserve to enable the parenting coordinator to finish dealing with a problem in the event that a party's retainer runs out in the middle of a dispute and the party refuses to replenish his or her retainer. PC’s charge by the hour for all time spent working with the family so they are very expensive. They may be cheaper in the long run than paying lawyers for numerous applications to Court but they may be more expensive than most families can afford.
Depending on the circumstances and the age of the children, the parents may also be asked to sign a number of consent forms giving the children’s doctors, care providers, teachers, therapists and any other relevant people, permission to discuss the family with the PC. After the Agreement has been signed and the retainer paid, the parents usually have some issues which have accumulated and the PC will then meet with the parties, usually in person and usually together, at least for the first meeting. The PC may also meet with the children and any other people, such as teachers, therapists or doctors who may be helpful. The PC will attempt to educate, coach, mediate, and as a last resort, arbitrate, the resolution of the issue. As other issues develop, the same process applies. Some issues may be resolved relatively quickly by phone or email, other issues will require in person meetings. Either or both parents may bring an issue to the PC for resolution. Although the PC has no power to force anyone to do anything, it is worth noting decisions of PCs may be enforceable by the Court. Parents who fail to meet their obligations under the PC agreement or fail to attend meetings arranged by the PC may be penalized in costs and their lack of cooperation may be reported by the PC to the Court.
Enforcing a determination=
Concluding the retainer
At the end of the parenting coordinator's term, all parties — the parents and the parenting coordinator — must agree in order to renew the parenting coordination agreement. If the agreement isn't renewed, the parenting coordination process is concluded.
Under s. 15(6) of the Family Law Act, a parenting coordination agreement can be terminated before the end of a parenting coordinator's term in one of three circumstances:
(a) in the case of an agreement, by agreement of the parties or by an order made on application by either of the parties;
(b) in the case of an order, by an order made on application by either of the parties;
(c) in any case, by the parenting coordinator, on giving notice to the parties and, if the parenting coordinator is acting under an order, to the court.
- Family Law Act
- Family Law Act Regulation
- Arbitration Act
- Supreme Court Family Rules
- Provincial Court Family Rules
- BC Parenting Coordinators Roster Society
- Association of Family and Conciliation Courts
- AFCC's Guidelines for Parenting Coordination (PDF)
|This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by JP Boyd, March 24, 2013.|
|JP Boyd on Family Law © John-Paul Boyd and Courthouse Libraries BC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.|