31st Aug 2021

Parenting Coordination – Assisting High Conflict Families To Implement Their Court Orders And Parenting Plans

Parenting Coordination – Assisting High Conflict Families To Implement Their Court Orders And Parenting Plans

With the continued focus on finding solutions outside of the family courts Parenting Coordination is another option that offers a beneficial route for parents struggling to work with each other.

Parenting Coordination started in the US as a way of addressing the inadequacies of the legal system at assisting families in transition, in particular families with a high level of conflict. Separated parents faced continued litigation, limited access to therapeutic resources and a lack of education and resources. A very familiar challenge to us in England and Wales made considerably worse after the restrictions of the last 18 months.

Parenting Coordination follows three principles:

  • Education – To educate the parents, amongst other things, to communicate more effectively and to understand the impact of their conflictual behaviours on their children;
  • Mediation – To mediate any issues that arise in implementing the agreement or court order which may need minor adaptations as circumstances change and the children get older as well as day to day issues; and
  • Determination – To provide a “determination of issues” where parents are still unable to agree. (Albeit this is about the implementation of what has already been agreed/ordered rather than of “new” issues).

The AFCC (Association of Family and Conciliation Courts) wrote the first guidelines in 2005. Within these they say:

A Parenting Coordinator shall provide ethical and professional services to families in transition. He or she shall uphold this commitment by maintaining practices that reduce parental conflict, minimise stress for children and encourage families, wherever possible, to resolve their own parenting issues without litigation.

In all cases the Parenting Coordinator (PC) starts working with the clients after the court order or parenting plan has been settled. The process is primarily used in high conflict cases as these families can continue to struggle, even with the order or plan in place. It is important to note that this an implementation role not a substantive issue role. The PC cannot make decisions in issues of relocation to another part of the country or to a different country or anything which affects the financial arrangements. However the PC can be asked to help the parents mediate those types of issues.

An excellent example of where the Parenting Coordination process would have helped was T v S [2013] EWHC 2521 where the President refused to make an order saying that the court did not have a role to “micro manage” the parental relationship. In that case the parents could not agree, amongst other things, on which platform at Clapham Junction the child should be handed over to the other parent.

Rather than go back to court the parties could have made use of their designated PC to help them deal with these kinds of issues. It would have saved them significant costs and, more importantly, it would have reduced much of the stress faced by both the parents and their children.

Ultimately the benefits of the process would seem obvious. For the parents, they have the opportunity to be supported and to learn some of the fundamental co-parenting skills that will keep them out of court.

For the children, they have the possibility of reduced parental conflict around them. An increasing chance of having two active parents in their lives and a better chance of adjusting to the reality of having two homes.

And for the lawyers – far fewer unsolvable (at least unsolvable by application of the law) cases. Plus, the ability to put the cases with the professionals they need to be with.

FLiP Faculty introduced Parenting Coordination training to the UK in 2017. Providing an intensive course, spread across 4 x 2-day sessions, that meets the expectations of the AFCC guidelines, this course has been run with a very high degree of delegate satisfaction.

The register of those who have successfully completed the training can be found on the FLiP Faculty website  – Register of Parenting Coordinators – (one of these is Family Law in Partnership’s own Dominic Raeside). There is also more information on the benefits of Parenting Coordination available on the Parenting Coordinators Alliance Website.

The good news is that after a stall due to the pandemic the latest course started in June and is already halfway through. The next course is scheduled to start mid October. For those interested in training to become a PC and to deliver this valuable service more details are available on the FLiP Faculty website – Train to become a Parenting Coordinator.

For expert family law advice on divorce or separation, please contact any of our top London divorce lawyers at Family Law in Partnership on 020 7420 5000 or contact us at: hello@flip.co.uk