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Gary Direnfeld

Parenting Coordination – What Is It?

For whatever reason, some separated parents find themselves in frequent conflict and unable to resolve their differences. Their inability to resolve conflict may have them going back to court time and time again. The issues that crop up may have to do with choice of school, medical interventions, extracurricular activities, alterations to the parenting schedule to accommodate holidays, attending counselling, church, dentist appointments…the list goes on.

The issue becomes, how can parents resolve these matters without the time and cost associated with court? That is where Parenting Coordination comes in.

Parenting Coordination is a service provided by a person who has experience working with separated parents in conflict. The Parenting Coordinator will have knowledge and training in mediation, arbitration and at least some training in family law, as well as domestic violence and power imbalances. The service provider may be a social worker, psychologist, lawyer or other professional with specified training to equip them for the role.

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Think of the Parenting Coordinator as a kind of parenting referee. The Parenting Coordinator meets with parents to resolve their dispute. The dispute may be resolved based on providing education and information; helping the parents achieve a mutually acceptable solution (mediation); or imposing a solution which the parents are required to follow (arbitration).

Typically, the Parenting Coordinator is there to help interpret and facilitate adherence to an existing parenting plan, but can also address issues not yet contemplated by the existing parenting plan.

Courts cannot impose this service on separated parents. The service must be entered into voluntarily by both parents.

Given the service provider will be empowered to make binding decisions on parents, the laws of arbitration in Ontario require certain conditions to be met prior to providing this service. Because of that, people seeking this service must discuss it with their family law lawyer, who will explain the nature and effect of the Parenting Coordinator’s service contract.

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