New Specialist Program Will Provide Extra Training to Parenting Co-ordinators
Parents who have had to determine child custody and related issues using the courts or other legal process may be familiar with the role of a “Parenting Co-ordinators.” In Ontario, that title describes a person hired to help resolve disagreements between separated and divorced parents on day-to-day matters affecting the children they have together, on diverse topics such as family vacations, involvement in sports and after-school activities, and the school they will attend.
The Parenting Co-ordinators steps in to help parents who have already reached a parenting agreement, or who are subject to a court order mandating the terms under which they are to deal with the children they have together, but who do not see eye-to-eye on how those arrangements are to be implemented.
Now, the role of Parenting Co-ordinators will gain some certainty and consistency in this province, since the Family Dispute Resolution Institute of Ontario (FDRIO) has begun to offer a new certified specialist program in 2017. The 30-hour program provides participants with training on Family Law issues, with a view toward arming them for dealing with high-conflict parenting disputes in particular.
According to its website, the FDRIO is an organization who supports dispute resolution professionals across Ontario, and its members include not only Parenting Co-ordinators but also “mediators, arbitrators, financial professionals … coaches and consultants, collaborative practitioners, therapists/assessors, child and family specialists and elder/estates specialists.”
This is a voluntary program, so it is not mandatory for any Parenting Co-ordinator to have the designation before accepting a retainer in a family law matter between parents. But for those who choose to take the program, it provides consistent, professional training in the standards that help optimize their role. The FDRIO already publishes Standards of Practice which guides these professionals on certain aspects of their facilitative role.
The move is a welcome step toward standardizing the profession. Unlike other jurisdictions, including certain U.S. states, the function and mandate of Parenting Co-ordinators is not established or even referred to in provincial legislation. Rather, it is established by private contract between the parents and the professional, and involves mediation that can lead up to binding arbitration under the Family Law Act if necessary.