Parent Coordination as defined by The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts is:
“A child-focused alternative dispute resolution process in which a mental health or legal professional with mediation training and experience assists high conflict parents to implement their parenting plan by facilitating the resolution of their disputes in a timely manner, educating parents about children’s needs, and with prior approval of the parties and/or court, making decisions within the scope of the court order or appointment contract. “
In our county, parent coordination is usually assigned as a last ditch effort to force co-parenting in a high conflict divorce when the parents end up in court… a lot. Our parent coordinator was assigned at our divorce hearing. Yep. The divorce was THAT bad. My divorce attorney, who is quite well known in our area and has been in the field almost 30 years, told me she could not remember a divorce as bad as ours. Ted, to this day, tells everyone how he tried so hard to get along with me that he was the one who asked for a parent coordinator. When I first was told by my attorney a year earlier about parent coordination, I jumped at the idea. Ted refused parent coordination at that time. I still laugh about that.
Parent Coordination is supposed to be nothing more than mediation. The PC is there to get you to agree, whether it is a fair agreement or not, does not matter. This person is not your family counselor. That is someone else’s job. The PC does not truly care about the history of WHY you feel so strongly opposite your ex about a particular topic.
Parent coordination, for me, was a nightmare. I was $60,000 in debt to attorneys when we started with ours, and I could not seek the advice of an attorney. My advice to anyone going through parent coordination, have an attorney you can consult with legal questions. Our PC had a considerable resume in family counseling, not law. I feel I was given legal advice, which ended up being wrong, on a few occasions.
The parent coordination meetings consisted of Ted speaking and controlling the flow, of most of the meeting. Ted had a meeting “dance”. The problem would be presented, I would speak my opinion, then explain WHY I felt the way I did. Ted would dominate the rest of the conversation, going 5 miles around the original problem, bring up multiple other problems and pull every blame out of an almost 20 year past he could. The PC and I would be so confused by the end we barely had time to go back and focus on the original problem. Then, the PC would have 10 minute mini-meetings with Ted after most sessions, which I never felt was fair. Ted, is a Class A manipulator. The PC refused over and over that Ted was capable of manipulating her, but when she threw twisted untrue stories back at me, I knew he had accomplished his plan. Ted would also create some kind of drama, then rush Grant and Kristy in to the PC for an emergency meeting with great concern for their physical or mental well being, and have them regurgitate whatever he told them to say. I would have no knowledge of this meeting until usually months after it happened.
At the beginning of year 2 in Parent Coordination, I was able to get the poison out of the lives of Grant, Kristy and I and got away from abuser #2 “the warden”. Parent coordination appointments got much easier after that, because I was only terrified of “what else” Ted was going to come up with at the next appointment. I was no longer terrified to go home to endure the hours of screaming and mental abuse from the warden over the answers I gave during the meeting.
Year 2 was significantly different than year 1. I started year two with a private meeting with our PC to explain the exit of the warden from our lives. Our meetings went from 1-2 a month to 2-3 total. When I did not want to attend meetings in the first year, I was threatened by the parent coordinator about the court order. Ted refused to attend many meetings in year 2. He caused a lot of drama during this time, and most likely had trouble spinning it into what could be perceived as being my fault.
I was much calmer and more reasonable in year 2, partially because I was no longer under orders and threats from the warden to answer as I was told, and partially because I was so tired of the fighting and the drama. I learned I had a worthy voice, and learned how to voice my concerns, stating complete facts with supporting evidence. It was also during this time I had a long talk with the attorney I hired, and changed how I reacted to Ted (see “Why are you still allowing him to have so much power over you?”). During year one, the reports the PC submitted to the court were very focused on my behavior. During year 2, even though the PC told me she saw definite positive changes in me, no reports were submitted to the court. When I asked about this, I was told “because we weren’t having many meetings.”
Looking back, I think hiring a mediator to establish some ground rules, and to sew up some loopholes and gray areas in our divorce decree would have been of greater benefit. I feel our PC was nothing more than another pawn to Ted, and when she was not useful to him, he wanted nothing to do with parent coordination or solving problems. When our two years was up, that was it. No final report, nothing. The requirement fulfilled, I now consult my attorney with unresolved problems and pray no one else has to go through this hell.