Parent Coordination Services
What Is Parent Coordination?
Parent Coordination is a dispute-resolution process designed to help parents who experience high-conflict parenting disputes and/or struggle to resolve conflict and communicate with each other. It can be provided either by a mental health clinician or an attorney who has received appropriate training in parent coordination and has been given authority by the court to provide these services.
Most parents strive to be the best parents they can be, but divorce and separation may make this difficult. Parent coordination helps parents follow parenting plans and court orders and protect their children from parenting-related conflict. Parent coordination is not helpful nor necessary in all circumstances, so it's important to understand the process to determine if it's appropriate for your circumstances.
What is the Role of a Parent Coordinator (PC)?
Parents involved in high-conflict custody cases spend a great deal of time and money in legal disputes. Most of the time, conflicts are about day-to-day parenting decisions and courts are unable to address these issues in a timely manner or with the nuance that parents would prefer. While it may take months to receive a court ruling, parent coordinators (PCs) offer a means to resolve these day-to-day conflicts quickly and with less expense. A PC appointment often reduces court costs and involvement for parents.
The court order appointing the PC will specify the PC’s exact authority. Generally, a PC has the power to resolve disputes that aren’t specifically addressed in the custody order, clarify the meaning of ambiguous or conflicting terms in the custody order, and help the parties comply with the custody order. Specifically, the PC’s authority includes, but is not limited to, the following areas:
transition time, pickup, or delivery
sharing of vacations and holidays
method of pickup and delivery
transportation to and from visitation
participation in child or daycare and babysitting
before- and after-school activities
health care management
alterations in schedule that do not substantially interfere with the basic time-share agreement
participation in visitation, including significant others or relatives
telephone or video contact
alterations to appearance, including tattoos or piercings
the child's passport
other areas of specific authority as designated by the court or the parties
HOW CAN DR. TARA EGAN HELP?
Dr. Egan offers TWO primary services to support parents experiencing separation or divorce.
1. coparenting counseling
2. parent coordination services
While Dr. Egan has extensive experience in working with coparents, it's important to recognize that she cannot serve as BOTH a coparenting counselor AND a parent coordinator. Her role must be clearly defined prior to beginning your work together so that expectations and responsibilities are transparent to all parties involved.
The role of a PC is described above. In contrast, Dr. Egan's role during coparenting counseling is that of THERAPIST. The goal is to support parents as they enhance their communication skills, conflict resolution, planning abilities, and emotional responsiveness to their children. She will provide support to parents as they deal with the emotional and practical consequences of separation and/or divorce. She may also give best practice parenting recommendations if parents have different perspectives on how to best support their children.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN COPARENTING COUNSELING AND PARENT COORDINATION SERVICES
Q: How is each service initiated?
Coparenting counseling services can be initiated by one or both coparents, simply by scheduling an intake session RIGHT HERE. Coparenting services may be initiated prior to separation, during separation or after divorce. Coparenting counseling is by the mutual consent of both parties.
In contrast, parent coordination services must be initiated by a court-order and are typically initiated after a custody agreement has been finalized. Coparents are encouraged to consult their attorney about the appropriateness of PC services. Coparents should not contact Dr. Egan directly prior to seeking PC services.
Q: Are parents REQUIRED to follow Dr. Egan's recommendations?
In a coparenting counseling relationship, Dr. Egan's recommendations are given thoughtfully and with the intention of best serving the needs of everyone in the entire family, most importantly the children. However, Dr. Egan does not have the authority to REQUIRE that her recommendations be followed.
Within the parent coordination relationship, the PC shall decide any issue within the scope of the parenting coordinator's authority, and the decision shall be enforceable as an order of the court. The decision shall be in writing and provided to the parties and their attorneys. So long as the custody order under which the decision is made is in effect, the decision shall remain binding after the expiration of the parenting coordinator's term unless the parenting coordinator or a subsequent parenting coordinator modifies the decision or the court reviews and modifies the decision.
Q: Will Dr. Egan have contact with my child(ren)?
Within the coparenting counseling relationship, contact between Dr. Egan the child(ren) may only occur by the mutual agreement of both parents. Some parents decide that Dr. Egan observing/meeting the child(ren) is helpful, as it allows her recommendations to be more personalized. Others decline this opportunity.
Within the PC relationship, Dr. Egan will arrange to meet the child(ren) a regular intervals, either in her office or within the home, at her discretion.
Q: What about confidentiality?
In the coparenting counseling relationship, all information shared will be kept confidential with the following exceptions: a) if Dr. Egan believes the client is a danger to him/herself/themselves or someone else, b) if the client gives her written permission to disclose information. Confidentiality will also be waived a) in the case of abuse to a child or an elderly person, b) if the information is court-ordered, c) in the case of a medical emergency, or d) if accusations of misconduct are brought.
In the parent coordination relationship, Dr. Egan may release any records held by the parenting coordinator to the parties or the attorneys for the parties, at her discretion. Additionally, any party may apply to the judge presiding for the issuance of a subpoena to compel production of the parenting coordinator's records. Any party who submits an application for a subpoena shall provide reasonable notice to the parenting coordinator and the parties so that any objection to the release of information or the manner of the release of information may be considered prior to the issuance of a subpoena.
Q: What are the fees associated with these services?
Coparenting counseling is billed at the same price point as the remainder of Dr. Egan's counseling services. Fees can be accessed HERE.
Because parent coordination services require more documentation and court appearances, parent coordination services are billed at $225/hour. A retainer of $3000 is required prior to the initiation of services.
If a dispute arises regarding the payment of fees or the retainer, the parenting coordinator may file a fee report and request a hearing. If a party disputes the parenting coordinator's fees or the allocation of those fees, the party may file a motion with the court requesting that the court review the fees. The district court retains jurisdiction to resolve disputes regarding the parenting coordinator's fees after the conclusion of the parenting coordinator's term so long as the parenting coordinator's fee report was filed in a timely manner.
How Do I Start the Process?
Once a child custody order (other than an emergency custody order) is entered, the court may enter an order appointing a PC at any time. The court may appoint the PC by granting a party’s motion or by the court’s own motion.
If you feel that you are a good fit, contact your attorney to gather more information.