Parenting Coordinators

The decision to divorce or separate was a grown-up decision. Unfortunately, when there are children involved parents sometimes lose sight of what’s important and focus instead on “winning” at any cost – even at the cost of their children’s well-being. There is help for these types of situations – A parent coordinator.  A parent coordinator is a licensed mental health professional or attorney who can step in to assist parents and children in navigating the stressors associated with separation and divorce.

No matter if you and your partner are amicable or locked in a bitter fight; divorce is tough.  This can be especially true if there are children involved.  Not only are you struggling to overcome the loss of your marriage, but as parents you are redefining roles and responsibilities. Some parents become locked in a cycle of tension and an inability to come together regarding issues related to the children.  We call these types of parental stalemates – high conflict.

In addition to representing numerous clients in various family law matters, Elizabeth StephensonSarah Hink and Kelli McGonagle are trained parenting coordinators. Their insight, skill, experience and dedication to child and family focused resolution is a powerful combination used to assist parents with learning better co-parenting skills to reduce high conflict custody situations.

Children holding hands as they walk | New Direction Family Law

What can be some of the signs of high conflict parenting?

  • Excessive use of the court system to resolve conflicts related to the children.
  • Anger, distrust and an inability to compromise and communicate effectively.
  • Physical, emotional or verbal abuse.
  • Difficulty communicating about and cooperating in the care of the minor children.

How is a Parenting Coordinator Appointed?

NCGS §50-90 provides that the court may appoint a parenting coordinator at any time during the proceedings of a child custody action involving minor children.  Additionally, the parties may also agree to have a parent coordinator appointed.   The simplest definition of a parent coordinator is a professional who can help turn a “No Win” situation into a “Win-Win” situation for parents and their children.

The authority of a parenting coordinator is specified in the court order appointing the parenting coordinator and is limited to matters that will aid the parties:

  1. Identify disputed issues.
  2. Reduce misunderstandings.
  3. Clarify priorities.
  4. Explore possibilities for compromise.
  5. Develop methods of collaboration in parenting and
  6. Comply with the court’s order of custody, visitation, or guardianship.

The parent coordinator cannot alter the court ordered custodial schedule, but they can assist parents in exploring creative ways to reach compromise.  Parenting coordinators are child focused.  The focus is to provide an opportunity for practice to gain the skills for effective communication and problem solving. The goal is to assist in helping the parents become “co-parents” and work together as a team for the best outcomes for their children.  If the parties are unable to agree on a particular issue, the parenting coordinator has the authority to make a decision in an effort to reduce tension and provide stability to the children.

Please contact us directly to learn more about parent coordinating services.