“Parenting Coordination is a hybrid legal-mental health role that combines assessment, education, case management, conflict management, dispute resolution, and at times, decision-making functions. Parenting Coordination is a child-focused process conducted by a licensed mental health or family law professional, or a certified, qualified or regulated family law mediator under the rules or laws of their jurisdiction with practical professional experience with high conflict family cases. The Parenting Coordinator (“PC”) assists coparents engaged in high conflict coparenting to implement their parenting plan.
Parenting Coordination is for parents who are unable or unwilling to jointly make parenting decisions, communicate effectively, comply with parenting agreements and orders or shield their children from the impact of parental conflict. A Parenting Coordinator makes recommendations and, if authorized, legally binding decisions for co-parents and may report to the court; therefore a PC should be appointed by and accountable to the court” (AFCC Guidelines for Parenting Coordination, 2019).
Both parents should agree to the use of a PC and PC may not be appropriate if there are allegations of intimate partner violence.
The reunification process differs from therapy, mediation, custody evaluation, and legal representation in the following important ways:
Though I am a licensed therapist, there is no therapist/client privilege.
The reunification process is not confidential.
Insurance companies do not reimburse for reunification services because the focus is not on a diagnostic issue.
If a mental health diagnosis is identified, I will assess that as a factor in the reunification process and refer for treatment if necessary.
In addition, the scope of reunification is limited to matters concerning your child or children in the context of the entire family system. Though you may have understandable grievances from the past or object to present actions by a parent, the focus of reunification is concerned only with how that behavior affects the child now; positive, negative or neutral.
It is expected that both parents will maintain a respectful tone during discussion with me and each other, make good faith effort toward cooperation, and prioritize the interests of the child over other competing concerns.
The duties of a reunification specialist include, but are not limited to:
Assessment of the relationship conflict between the estranged parent and child.
Facilitating a plan for reunification that serves the child’s best interest.
Supporting cooperation among parties involved.
Guiding collaborative parenting to reduce risk of further estrangement.
Monitoring compliance with court orders.
Providing parents, attorneys, and the court with recommendations pertaining to the status and progress of reunification.
Help implement new or modified parenting time provisions ordered by the court or agreed to by parents.
Synergy Co-parenting Solutions
In our separate work, we noticed more Parenting Coordination cases had some kind of reunification component and the reunification cases that were going well, stalled or backslid once contact between the rejected parent and the child(ren) was re-established because of lack of professional oversight. Bringing on both professionals at the beginning of a case, will streamline the process thereby allowing more access to the community, provide oversight and management of the parenting plan, respond to and intervene with setbacks before they become larger issues, manage other issues with the parenting plan that could inadvertently interfere with the reunification work and discourage further litigation with the goal of increased successful outcomes.
We would expect to be ordered to work with a family in the same order, ask for one retainer and charge the same hourly rate. We work with the families independently, however, would have releases allowing our consultation and collaboration. We each have our defined roles, Michael is the reunification professional, and will work with the family strictly in that capacity. Rena, is the PC and will work strictly in that capacity, managing the mechanics of the parenting plan, and working with the family to design and implement provisional parent-child contact, and parenting plans if that is necessary. We would remain in close contact and update each other on our progress and roadblocks, and consult with each other about strategies and processes specifically designed for each family. Because we are both working toward the same goal with the same family, together we can help the family begin to formulate a new narrative and support the contact (or not in some cases) and endorse a positive relationship with both parents through trust building and maintenance.