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What Happens When Parents Cannot Agree On a Parenting Plan: The Role of Parenting Coordinators

Most parents strive to do what is best for their children by putting their children’s interests first, especially in the event of a divorce. It is now fairly common knowledge that divorce can have a negative and long-lasting impact on children, and the majority of parents work to ensure that the consequences of divorce are minimized to the extent possible. This could mean continuing to take family trips with an ex-spouse, or in some families, ex-spouses living in the same household, while keeping separate living areas. However, one particularly damaging behavior, as reported in the news, that divorcing parents should work to prevent is using their children as emotional surrogates for the estranged spouse as a method of coping with the end of a marriage. The way divorcing parents in Florida establish how they will work together to continue raising their children is through the creation of a parenting plan. Normally, the parents mutually agree on the terms of the parenting plan on their own or with the help of attorneys, and submit the plan to the court for approval as part of the divorce decree. Some parents, though, are so far apart on what each expects to give and receive in a parenting plan that a different approach may be imposed by the court. This secondary approach, characterized by the use of parenting coordinators to create a parenting plan, will be outlined below.

When Is Parenting Coordination Used and the Purpose

In divorce cases involving a high degree of conflict where parents are unable or unwilling to agree on the creation or implementation of a parenting plan, a judge can order the parents to work with a parenting coordinator to resolve the areas of dispute. In addition, parenting coordination can be used if both parents agree, or one parent files a motion with the court requesting this service, provided there is no history of domestic violence. Parenting coordination provides a child-focused forum where a parenting coordinator can assist the parents with working out issues that are creating impasses to agreement. Specifically, a parenting coordinator tries to educate the parents about a child’s needs, offers recommendations on ways to co-parent, and, with the consent of the parties and court, makes some limited decisions about the terms and implementation of parenting plans.

Who Can Be a Parenting Coordinator?

Since parenting coordination typically involves parties with a variety of highly-contested child custody issues, the approach has a mental health/counseling aspect in the hope the parents can learn how to productively work together and create a positive environment for their children. Consequently, parenting coordinators must possess the following qualifications:

  • be a licensed mental health professional;
  • be licensed as a psychiatrist;
  • have certification as a family law mediator from the Florida Supreme Court and hold at least a master’s degree in a mental health field; or
  • be an active member of the Florida Bar and in good standing.

Further, the coordinator must have all of the following practical experience/training:

  • a minimum of three years of licensed practice;
  • completion of a family mediation program approved by the Florida Supreme Court; and
  • at least 24 hours of training in parenting coordination program concepts and format, plus an additional four hours of training in domestic violence and child abuse.

Contact a Lawyer

Parenting plans have a huge impact on the structure of a child’s life, so it is important to draft one that makes sense for the parents and the child. If you cannot agree on a parenting plan with an ex-spouse, talk to a divorce/family law attorney about ways to facilitate resolution while also protecting the interests of your family. The Fort Lauderdale law office of Joyce A. Julian, P.A. has many years of experience in family law matters, and can help you find the best possible solution for your situation. Contact the office for a free consultation.

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