Logistics of Parent Coordination
A parent coordinator has wide discretion to:
- schedule meetings,
- meet with either parent or with both parents,
- communicate or meet with the children, and
- speak, meet or consult with third parties.
At times, a parent coordinator must take an assertive stance in a joint custodial issue or in a crisis situation. At other times, the coordinator can take a back-seat role, responding only as needed. The family’s needs for intervention by a parent coordinator may change over time at different phases in a child’s life, and at different times of year.
Parent Coordination Agreement
At the outset of a parent coordination process, each party will be asked to sign a detailed Parent Coordination Agreement. Under this Agreement, both parties agree to:
- Work with each other and with the parent coordinator in a collaborative manner, to the best of their abilities;
- Attend meetings scheduled by the parent coordinator; and
- Comply with decisions of the parent coordinator when exercising tie-break authority.
Once the Agreement is signed, neither party has authority unilaterally to terminate the services of the parent coordinator, though both parties may end the Agreement by mutual agreement between them if they decide to do so.
Payment of Fees
Each party agrees to pay a retainer to the parent coordinator, in a percentage share that may be equally divided between them or proportionate to their income, as specified in a divorce decree or agreed by the parties, and to replenish the retainer when it has been depleted.
The parent coordinator provides regular reports to the parties concerning the parent coordinator’s time and fees. The parent coordinator’s fees are typically far lower than those of a divorce lawyer, but higher than those of a counselor providing psychotherapy or other consultation services.
Retaining the Services of a Parent Coordinator
If not appointed by court order, the parties (either on their own or through counsel) will communicate with prospective parent coordinators to choose one who will work with them. It is important to find a parent coordinator whose personal and professional style is compatible with that of the parents, and who can work effectively also with the child.
Testifying in Court
If the parent coordination process breaks down, or if either party files a motion in court to seek relief on a custodial issue in the course of parent coordination, the coordinator may testify in court at the request of either party. The coordinator will seek reimbursement from the party requesting testimony for the coordinator’s time spent preparing for, and testifying on behalf of, that party.
Skills in the Practice of Parent Coordination
Under the toxic and adversarial conditions of a high-conflict divorce, skillful practice of parent coordination involves high-level capabilities in:
- Intuition and intelligence;
- Conflict resolution;
- Human relations;
- Psychodynamics and psychopathology;
- Family and childhood systems;
- Communication with both children and adults;
- Empathy and emotional support;
- Even-handedness and resilience under fire;
- Practical and common sense judgment;
- Substance, practice and rules of family law;
- Negotiation with lawyers;
- Court testimony; and
- A judicious combination of flexibility and toughness.
Experience of a Lawyer, Counselor, Family Therapist and Mediator
Edward Honnold, JD, LICSW, has acquired extensive experience relevant to parent coordination in more than 30 years of professional practice as a lawyer, counselor, family therapist and mediator. He is committed to the principles of collaborative divorce, and he works closely, as needed, with other practitioners of collaborative divorce.
Through many years of professional and hands-on experience, HonnolDCounseling brings parent coordination skills to the service of divorced parents and their children.