Dear Marsha: When to Work with a Parent Coordinator
In our Dear Marsha blog series, Dr. Marsha Kline Pruett answers questions submitted by parents like you on all matters related to shared parenting.
My ex is so angry about the equitable distribution of our money and property that he won’t speak to me. Email only, on OFW. It’s been two years since he initiated the divorce. He bad-mouths me to the kids. Should I seek a court-appointed parent coordinator?
Many parents question…when is a Parent Coordinator (PC) useful? Parenting Coordination is a process that has been in use for about 30 years. It is a form of dispute resolution that may be ordered by the court or entered into by parental agreement. It combines education, case management, negotiation, conflict management techniques, mediation, and decision making to help parents implement their existing parenting plan, comply with the terms of the plan already in place, and resolve disputes in a timely manner.
A PC can be a mental health or legal professional. The PC role is highly prescribed in guidelines and sometimes by law, statute or rule, with a clear scope of authority and required training to practice. Thus, the practice of PC is very different across jurisdictions and states.
If you are thinking about seeking out a PC, you should become aware of what the role is in your area. You can find out by checking with a practicing family law attorney. Research in this area is sparse. What we know is that many people who participate find it to be helpful, as do judges and attorneys. But it doesn’t work for everybody.
Given the lack of other alternatives for parents in an ongoing conflict with each other, Parenting Coordination provides a worthwhile place to try and improve your relationship with your ex. But don’t expect miracles. It takes a skillful professional—as well as parents who are willing to improve their co-parenting—for it to be successful.
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About Dr. Marsha Kline Pruett
Marsha Kline Pruett is the Maconda Brown O’Connor Professor at Smith College School for Social Work. She has a Ph.D. in Clinical/Community Psychology, and masters’ degrees in psychological services in education and in legal studies, and she is a Board Diplomate in Couples and Family Psychology.
She has 30 years of practice experience, specializing in couples counseling and co-parenting consultation as well as intervention design and evaluation. She has published extensively for professional and lay audiences, including two books (Your Divorce Advisor and Partnership Parenting). Her research and writings center on couple relationships before and after divorce; coparenting; father involvement; and family conflict.
She is involved in consulting and research projects spanning supporting father involvement interventions; the evaluation of online parenting programs; and model alternative dispute resolution programs that help families resolve disputes outside of the adversarial system.
Dr. Kline Pruett consults on national boards and Task Forces and provides training nationally and abroad to mental health and legal professionals. She is Past President for the Association of Family and Conciliation Court Professionals (AFCC) and Social Science Editor for Family Court Review.