Is a “Parenting Coordinator” Right for You?
In Ontario family law, “Parenting Coordinators” are an increasingly-popular concept; a quick search for that term on CanLII, the Canadian Legal Information Institute’s website containing court judgments from across Canada, shows almost 150 Ontario instances in which a judge has referenced that term, almost all within the past 5 years.
So what are Parenting Coordinators? And what do they do?
Generally consisting of individuals trained as social workers, psychologists and sometimes lawyers, Parenting Coordinators are appointed to help separated parents resolve any disagreements they have over the parenting of any children they share. Their mandate embraces a broad range of topics, but is relegated to the more minor issues that may crop up between disputing parents, such issues around: established parenting schedules (such as drop-off times, parenting and access time, and vacations); decisions relating to health care (including medical, dental, and therapy or counselling); and educational decisions (such as choice of school, tutoring, summer school, enrichment and extra-curricular activities, and religious instruction). Perhaps most importantly, a Parenting Coordinator can assist couples to communicate better with each other and with the children, by essentially serving as arbitrators.
Parenting Coordinators are appointed under a Court Order, or else by way of a Parenting Plan, Separation Agreement, or Arbitration Award. Their role is to help with the implementation of existing orders and agreements – not to help create them. They employ an arsenal of tools to help parents resolve their disagreements, including education, coaching, and mediation. If these problem-solving methods fail, then a Parenting Coordinator has the authority to act as an arbitrator.
In Ontario, a judge is not authorized to order parents to use a Parenting Coordinator; rather, both parents must agree and give their consent. But once that consent is in place, a court may order one or both parents to execute paperwork or otherwise comply with the underlying contract that gives the Parenting Coordinator his or her authority and mandate to help resolve their disputes.
Do you have questions about Parenting Coordinators, and whether they might be right for your situation? We can help.