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by Daniel Gloade on September 1, 2014

After the initial separation, there is usually an agreement regarding the children (custody, access etc.).  Unfortunately, some parents cannot communicate to each other.  Parents often mistake his or her need to control the situation with the children’s genuine wishes or best interest.  Given that the parties cannot reach a settlement, they feel that they must take the other parent to court.

Courts are expensive, however.  In practice, there is a motion to change and one or both of the parties ask the judge to make a ruling on a string of past decisions.  This situation is not ideal.   Often parents need a neutral third party facilitate calm discussion to provide a reality check as to what would happen if the matter was taken to court.

Now, many judges are turning to Parenting Coordinators.  Parenting Coordinators are hired to seek resolutions to parenting issues as they arise.  Their background can be in Social Work, Psychology or in Alternative Dispute Resolution.   Arbitrators that are not lawyers soon must have some training in Ontario family law.  A website from the Ministry of the Attorney General is here:

There are some real advantages to having a Parenting Coordinator.

  1. It is cheaper than court;
  2. Decisions are timelier than in court;
  3. Parties with unrealistic expectations get a “reality check” from a knowledgeable and neutral third party;
  4. A review from a third party often makes parents communicate with greater civility.  They are ashamed if they respond crassly or immaturely.

Unfortunately, this program is in the early stages in Ontario.  Some things need to be worked out:

  1. Should a judge order parties to use a Parenting Coordinator?
  2. If the parties agree to use a Parenting Coordinator, can a party go to court instead?  Should a party be allowed to use the court to appeal a decision of the Parenting Coordinator?  (Remember, Parenting Coordinators have no power to enforce decisions i.e. police enforcement clause, etc.)
  3. Should a Parenting Coordinator’s decision bind the parties?  Would that interfere with future attempts to find mutual agreement?
  4. Should the discussions be private or can a judge order the coordinator to write a report?  Please see the paper found here:
  5. How do you get a parent to stick to a Parenting Coordinator if he or she feels that the Coordinator has “taken sides”?
  6. How do you select a Parenting Coordinator (Arbitrator)?  Who do you trust?  There is no accreditation board for Parenting Coordinators.  As stated above, people from very different fields can all claim to be Parenting Coordinators.
  7. Who pays for the Parenting Coordinator?  Is the cost shared equally? Is it based on the ratio of the parents’ respective incomes?  Does a party paying more than 50% exert pressure on the Parenting Coordinator?  Will the party paying more than 50% resent “losing” all the time?
  8. How do you find a Parenting Coordinator?  There is the Ontario Association for Family Mediation.  The website is here.   Unfortunately, there are only three listed in the Region of Waterloo.

The advantages to this service are self-explanatory.  I suggest that Parenting Coordination/Arbitration will be a growth industry.   I suspect that there will eventually be a regulatory organization to provide universal accreditation and that more and more people will be on the register of this organization.  Anyone in psychology, social work or family law should seriously consider entering this field.

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