Simple misunderstandings often negatively affect our perceptions and opinions about things. What we overhear isn't always "truth," and what we say may not always be what we mean. Because there are a lot of misconceptions about parenting coordination, an emerging new profession within family law, I thought it would be helpful to our HuffPost Divorce readers to dispel some of the known myths, and ask our readers to add comments of their own!
In a recent post, "10 Things Co-Parents Need to Know About Parenting Coordination," parenting coordination was introduced as an opportunity for co-parents to resolve their disputes outside of the courtroom, saving themselves and their families the emotional and financial costs associated with litigation. Shortly thereafter, "Signs It's Time to Engage a Parenting Coordinator," was posted, listing several indicators when meeting with a parenting coordinator would be in the best interests of the parents and the children. Though in part tongue-in-cheek, the sentiment was clear: If your life is revolving around and is being consumed by co-parenting issues, rather than the other way around, you may need to seek assistance from a qualified parenting coordinator to help steer course-correct you in the right direction. Reviewing responses to both posts, it appears that there by may be some confusion about the scope of parenting coordination, the role of the parenting coordinator, and how both are being used more frequently in family law cases. So, let's explore the three Ms (myths, misconceptions and misunderstandings) together:
• M3 #1: Parenting coordinators make all of the decisions for the parents. Truth: The scope of authority of a parenting coordinator is governed by statute (and therefore, may vary from state to state). Generally speaking, decision-making is limited to the four-corners of the Court's Order of Referral, unless otherwise agreed-to by both parties. The primary goal is to coax, not coerce, co-parents to arrive at joint decisions together with the collective education, experience, training and skills of a parenting coordinator. When parents are unable to arrive at that joint decision, the parenting coordinator can step in to make it on their behalf.
• M3 #2: Parenting coordinators are just another parasitic professional seeking to financially profit from a family's pain and conflict. Wow. Truth: Parenting coordinators are service providers, and do charge a fee for their services. However, their fees are considerably less than the costs relating to litigating the same issues. As a bonus, the parents maintain a semblance of control over their destiny, rather than forcing the Court to make all of the decisions.
• M3 #3: Parenting coordinators are just extensions of therapists, and are only interested in emotions and feelings. Truth: Parenting Coordinators are not therapists! Let me repeat that: We are not therapists (though we sometimes need them after a particularly difficult session with some co-parents!) The purpose of parenting coordination is to provide a child-focused alternative dispute resolution process in an environment where co-parents are assisted with the creation and/or implementation of a parenting plan. Parents are assisted by parenting coordinators, who provide education, make recommendations, and, under certain circumstances, make limited decisions within the scope of the Court's Order of Referral. When appropriate, parenting coordinators may also recommend therapy. But, they're certainly not giving it.
• M3 #4: Parenting coordination is a quickie way to resolve co-parenting disputes. The short-term goal of every parenting coordinator is to help the co-parents achieve resolution to an existing dispute. This may happen quickly, or it may drag on for several weeks or even months. The long-term goal is to provide the co-parents with enough resources and tools that allow them to make good decisions (i.e., in the best interests of their children) on their own. While parenting coordination is intended to build long-term relationships with the co-parents, it does not necessitate the creation of a long-term, see-you-every-week-until-death-do-us-part relationship. As so eloquently described by Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator and President of Directive Energy, Allyson Tomchin, the measure of the true success of a parenting coordinator is in the "Not." Not going to court; Not calling your attorney; Not litigating; Not calling the police; Not missing holidays and special occasions; Not fighting with the ex spouse/ex partner; and Not being constantly frustrated and angry regarding co-parenting. Not. Not. Not.
In short, the scope of parenting coordination is limited to the Order of Referral as issued by the Court, the role of the parenting coordinator is to assist the parents in designing and/or implementing a Parenting Plan, and both are being used more frequently in family law cases across the country in an effort to diminish the hostilities between co-parents, reduce the legal costs associated with protracted litigation, and to relieve the backlogged family law court systems.
So, HuffPost Divorce readers: What are your thoughts?