Parenting Coordination Central

 

Guidelines for the Practice of Parenting Coordination
The first parenting coordination guidelines were written in 2003 by the Cooperative Parenting Institute as part of their training model for parenting coordination. The AFCC also created guidelines in 2005.  For more information on the AFCC guidelines visit www.afccnet.org.


Guideline I. Ethical Service

A parenting coordinator shall provide ethical and professional services to families in transition. He or she shall uphold this commitment by maintaining practices that reduce parental conflict, minimize stress for children, and encourage families, whenever possible, to resolve their own parenting issues without litigation. The parenting coordinator shall also clarify his or her role and responsibilities by obtaining a copy of the court order or settlement agreement prior to offering any services to the family.

 

Guideline II. Clarification of Role 

A parenting coordinator will clarify and explain the difference between the role and responsibilities of a parenting coordinator and other overlapping roles such as a psychotherapist, mediator, and guardian ad litem. A parenting coordinator shall ensure that parents understand that parenting coordination is not considered psychotherapy.

A parenting coordinator shall strictly adhere to the role and responsibilities of a parenting coordinator as outlined in the order or stipulation of the parties. They shall protect the family's rights and not overstep any authority granted through a court order, stipulation, or settlement agreement.  In addition, a parenting coordinator shall never make any permanent changes to a court order or settlement agreement without written permission from both parents or authorization of a court order or stipulation.  Any written change agreed upon by both parents shall be forwarded to the attorneys and guardian ad litem as soon as possible.


Guideline III. Child Advocate
  

A parenting coordinator shall remain "child focused" and encourage both parents to do the same. He or she shall, to the greatest extent possible, ensure that the child(ren) is shielded from parental conflict, loyalty binds, and any other unnecessary stress. Whenever possible, a coordinator shall promote the active participation of both parents in the life of their child(ren).

A parenting coordinator shall assist parents to make informed decisions to promote the best interests of their child(ren).  A parenting coordinator shall utilize effective mediation skills and creative problem-solving skills.  All mutually agreed upon changes shall be initialed by both parents and included in the final parenting plan.


Guideline IV. Impartiality

A parenting coordinator shall remain impartial and stay aware of any biases, values, and/or professional issues that may interfere with his or her ability to perform the responsibilities of an effective parenting coordinator.  If the coordinator is unable to remain impartial, for any reason, he or she shall take the necessary steps to assign a new coordinator.  In order to provide continuity of care, the coordinator shall provide a consultation with the new coordinator prior to transferring the case.


Guideline V. Conflict of Interest

A parenting coordinator shall disclose any actual or potential conflicts of interest as soon as this information is made known to the coordinator.


Guideline VI. Confidentiality

A parenting coordinator shall ensure confidentially to the extent that it is defined in the court order or stipulation.  He or she shall remind both parents that any form of mediation performed by a parenting coordinator is not a confidential process since memos may be sent to attorneys and the court may request information highlighting the behaviors and accomplishments of both parents.  A parenting coordinator shall maintain confidentiality with regard to storage and disposal of records.  A parenting coordinator shall speak to attorneys regarding only their client and/or the coordination process.


Guideline VII. Informed Consent

A parenting coordinator shall provide each participant with a copy of an informed consent form in accordance with the Health Information Privacy Act.  Since parenting coordination is not considered psychotherapy, a written document shall also be provided that clarifies the limitations of the informed consent as it applies specifically to parenting coordination.

A parenting coordinator shall function as a mandated reporter.  He or she shall provide parents with a copy of office policies prior to the first session addressing guidelines on mandated reporting.


Guideline VIII. Encouraging Parental Independence

A parenting coordinator shall encourage parents to make informed decisions regarding all child-rearing matters and avoid any impulsive or premature resolutions.   A parenting coordinator shall use caucus-style negotiations when attempting to reach agreements whenever an imbalance of power may exist between the parents.   If the parents reach an impasse, a coordinator shall not prolong unproductive sessions that would result in emotional and monetary costs to either parent.

As soon as ongoing sessions are no longer necessary, a parenting coordinator shall modify the frequency and intensity of his or her involvement with the family and change the status of the parents' participation to an "as-needed" basis.   A parenting coordinator shall not encourage parents to become dependent on the process of parenting coordination or create a situation in which the parents become dependent on the parenting coordinator's guidance.   A coordinator shall promote parental authority when appropriate as well as parental decision-making.


Guideline IX. Appropriate Referrals

A parenting coordinator shall make appropriate referrals on behalf of the parents for additional services when needed, and be able to justify the reasoning behind any referral.   He or she shall never make a referral to any professional through which he or she could profit in some manner.

A parenting coordinator shall meet with the child(ren) only as necessary to enhance the process of parenting coordination.   If the child(ren) is in need of ongoing therapeutic services, the coordinator shall make an appropriate referral and ensure that the proper releases are signed in order to communicate with the child's therapist.   Likewise, if the child(ren) is already involved in treatment, the coordinator shall obtain the proper releases and consult with the child(ren)'s therapist to ensure continuity of care.

Guideline X. Coordination of Services 

A parenting coordinator shall keep in close contact with other professionals working with the family in order to ensure continuity of care.   He or she shall ensure that the proper releases have been obtained prior to consulting with professionals.

If a guardian has been assigned for the child(ren), a parenting coordinator shall establish and maintain contact with the guardian.   He or she shall keep the guardian informed of the family's progress and shall contact the guardian immediately in situations deemed serious emergencies.  Prior to making any "temporary" modifications to the existing court order or settlement agreements, the parent coordinator shall consult with the guardian.


Guideline XI. Ex parte Communication

A parenting coordinator shall not engage in ex parte communication with the judge by telephone, e-mail, fax, or in person.   A parenting coordinator shall prepare and send written updates to both attorneys and the guardian regarding any noncompliance exhibited by either parent.   Only when required by the court order shall a coordinator send a copy of the document to the judge.


Guideline XII. Temporary Modification

A parenting coordinator shall document a rational justification for any temporary modification or recommendation.  He or she shall recognize that the overall purpose of any change or directive shall be for the purpose of shielding the child(ren) from unnecessary conflict or stress.  A parenting coordinator shall reevaluate each modification at the end of a specified period of time.  If a temporary recommendation impacts the amount of time with one parent, arrangements shall be made to correct this as soon as possible so as not to reduce parent-child contact.


Guideline XIII. Emergency Services

A parenting coordinator shall evaluate if they choose to be available to the family for child-focused emergencies, twenty-four hours a day.  If the coordinator choose to provide this service and is out of town, he or she shall ensure that adequate twenty-four-hour services are available during the absence.

A parenting coordinator shall immediately notify the other professionals involved with the family when an emergency situation is inevitable and the child(ren) may be physical or severe emotional risk, to determine if an emergency hearing is warranted.


Guideline XIV. Safety

A parenting coordinator shall take reasonable safety precautions when domestic violence is suspected or documented.


Guideline XV. Legal Advice

A parenting coordinator shall not give legal advice.  He or she may share basic knowledge of legal issues related to divorce such a legal terminology and the separation process.  However, a coordinator must encourage parents to consult with their attorney as necessary.


Guideline XVI. Dual Roles

A parenting coordinator shall not perform more than one role with the family prior to or after offering services of parenting coordination.  He or she shall not provide psychological testing or enter into a therapeutic relationship with either parent after providing the services of parenting coordination.  However, periodic sessions with the child(ren) or coaching sessions with the parents shall not be considered therapeutic, but rather a part of the parenting coordination process.


Guideline XVI. Documentation

A parenting coordinator shall keep detailed session and telephone notes for an indefinite period of time unless stated otherwise in state statute.  If the case is transferred to a new coordinator a complete copy of the file shall remain with the previous coordinator.


Guideline XVIII. Financial Matters

A parenting coordinator may assist the parents in the resolution of all parenting matters.  Major financial issues such as child support, assets, liabilities, and taxes shall be resolved in standard mediation, between attorneys, or by the court. However, a parenting coordinator may address finances as they apply to parenting expenses such as, but not limited to, reimbursement of medical co-payments, fees associated with extracurricular activities, and the purchase of school supplies.


Guideline XIX. Testimony

A parenting coordinator required to testify shall do so on behalf of the child(ren) rather than for either parent or attorney.

A parenting coordinator shall not offer recommendations for physical or legal custody.  However, if asked to provide a report to the Court in the form of memo or testimony, a coordinator may reflect upon each parent's strengths and weakness, including observations regarding the effectiveness of the time-sharing plan.


Guideline XX. Fees

The fees associated with the services of a parenting coordinator shall be set as reasonable as possible.  The joint charge shall not be set higher than the therapist's standard hourly charge.  A parenting coordinator's hourly fee may be reduced as needed to assist low-income families.  However, fees shall not be increased based upon the parents' ability to pay.  Since parenting coordination is not therapy, no third-party reimbursement shall be used.


Guideline XXI. Professional Education

A parenting coordinator shall have the education and training necessary to provide ethical and professional services to high-conflict families.  Professional education shall include (1) adult psychopathology, (2) child development, (3) children's issues of divorce, (4) divorce recovery, (5) basic legal terminology and the legal process of divorce, (6) family systems theory, (7) domestic violence, and (8) mediation and conflict resolution training.  In addition, the parenting coordinator shall remain up-to-date on divorce issues and professional training requirements as determined by the jurisdiction in which he or she is providing services.

A parenting coordinator shall participate in continuing education and be personally responsible for ongoing professional growth.  A parenting coordinator shall consult with other professionals when necessary, such as a family law attorney, child therapist, physician, and with at least one established parent coordinator.

 Copyright© 2003: Boyan & Termini - The Psychotherapist as Parent Coordinator: Strategies and Techniques for High Conflict Divorce: Strategies and Techniques 

Also see the Association of Family and Conciliation Court's Parenting Coordination Guidelines.

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