If you’re getting divorced and have children you will have to figure out how to share parenting time with your ex and that likely means creating a parenting plan. Parenting plans often say what needs to happen but not how it needs to happen and if you and your ex are struggling to communicate then you might ask if working with a Parenting Coordinator will help.
When Liv left her marriage her son was just two years old and she was pregnant with their second child. A parenting plan for children this young needs to be very flexible and child-specific requiring more, rather than less communication. Liv did work with a Parenting Consultant for a couple of years and found it initially helpful. Here’s Liv:
We did have a mediator, parenting coordinator. She lasted about 2 months. Then we had some issues and we eventually decided to go see another parenting coordinator/counselor who knew her stuff.
She was fantastic and I would recommend her to almost everybody. She got us through a lot of stuff, but I think she took us as far as we could go. I think at some point you have to realize when you’re kind of just running into a brick wall over and over again.
It wasn’t court mandated. It was after we finished the main part of our divorce that it. We were having trouble with the custody schedule in particular. Because my children were very young when we were divorced, their needs changed fairly quickly. They weren’t in school every day for years where you drop them off at nine and you pick them up at three. At that point they were back and forth to daycare.
I had agreed on a specific schedule based on the fact that my ex was not taking my daughter overnight. Then we tried working one out on our own. As far as I was concerned it was working for quite some time but my ex wasn’t happy with the amount of time that he was delegated. And even though his work schedule was different than it was when we finalized the court order, he said that he was going back to that work schedule and that we should go back back to that custody schedule.
We went back to that custody schedule and the result was that he was leaving the children with other people for extended periods of time, feeling like he had won because he was getting his 46% or whatever it was at the time, but he wasn’t seeing him for 20% of that and it just didn’t make sense.
Him wanting more custody time with the kids wasn’t about child support, it was more about the percentage. His lawyer had told him when we had the court order finalized that he had a specific percentage of the time allotted with the children. He felt that that was the target that he had to have. I actually did the math and the percentage was not correct but he had got it in his mind and he fixated on it. He hasn’t been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder but I suspect that that was what came into play.
That is why we ended up going back to the parenting coordinator and then on to the second one. The second one we actually had an arbitration clause put her into her contract so that we had her arbitrate the custody issue.
The problem specifically with the parenting coordination and the parenting plan was that we’d agree to something in counseling and I think that in his mind he was agreeing to do it but more so he was trying to get his point across. That was more important to him. When it came to time to put the plan in place or to do what he agreed to do, it wouldn’t get done. It was very frustrating to me for a very long time.
It was actually my now-husband who helped me come around to the fact that it wasn’t doing anything. I was paying a lot of money and I wasn’t actually getting anywhere or any further than I could have without her in the mix.
After we finished our two- year contract, I said enough. I’m not going back anymore, it doesn’t make any sense for me to keep going back. We’ve tackled all the big issues. We’ve tried to tackle the small issues and you’re not doing what you said you were going to do. Why am I going to keep going back so she can tell you that you should do it. You agreed to do it. Then you agreed to do it again and then you don’t do it. That’s the way it went.
The Divorce Coach Says
The term Parenting Coordinator can have very specific meaning – it’s not simply a professional parenting expert that you and your ex choose to work with. In Colorado, for example, it’s a neutral third party that is appointed by the court to assist parents in their parenting of a minor child. The role is defined by statute and while there may be grey areas of what they can and can’t do, broadly they help parents agree on the specifics of their parenting plan but they can’t change the terms of the plan. Changing the plan would mean working with the parents to develop revised wording and then submitting that to the court. And in Colorado, PC’s don’t have the authority to make decisions unless they are also appointed Decision-Maker which means that if parents aren’t able to reach agreement, the parents would need to pursue legal action.
Are PCs helpful? I think they can be very helpful especially in the early days when you’re trying to figure out how to implement the parenting plan or as in Liv’s case where the age of the children warrant more flexibility in the plan. And I think in addition to hiring the professional with the skills suited to your situation, it’s also important to plan on regular, frequent meetings so you can address issues as they arise before they escalate and get compounded by other issues. It’s simply not realistic to think you can walk into a two-hour session and resolve all the concerns from the last six months.
I agree with Liv that over time a PC may be less helpful. PC’s focus on resolving issues and facilitating communication. They can’t address why one parent chooses to behave in a certain way. A PC is not going to resolve the underlying behavioral issue and that means conflict can continue.
A PC is appointed through a court order and that appointment could be mandated by judge based on their assessment of the situation or it could be following a request by one or both of the parents.
To find out more about Parenting Coordinators where you live try Googling, “Parenting Coordinator, YourState.”
As an alternative, you could both agree to work with a parenting coach privately. This might be a good solution for a situation which is less high-conflict and more where communication between you and your ex is extremely difficult. A neutral third-party with parenting expertise would be able to facilitate your discussions while steering you towards what’s in the child’s best interests.