According to the Guidelines for Parenting Coordination developed by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts Task Force on Parenting Coordination, “[P]arenting coordination 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 the court, making decisions within the scope of the court order or appointment contract.”
The guidelines go on to describe the overall objective of parenting coordination, i.e. “to assist high conflict parents to implement their parenting plan, to monitor compliance with the details of the plan, to resolve conflicts regarding their children and the parenting plan in a timely manner, and to protect and sustain safe, healthy and meaningful parent-child relationships. Parenting coordination is a quasi-legal, mental health, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process that combines assessment, education, case management, conflict management and sometimes decision-making functions.”
In most high-conflict cases where the parents have entered a Stipulation under which a Parenting Coordinator (“PC”) is appointed to help them resolve parenting disputes, the parents have demonstrated that they are unable or simply unwilling to make parenting decisions on their own. In such cases, there is usually a history of one or both parties failing to comply with parenting agreements and court orders. When the parties have been unable to reduce their child-related conflicts (disputes unrelated to child support), and have been unable to protect their children from the impact of that conflict, deferring to a PC for decision-making is often a desirable alternative to resolving disputes through contested contempt and modification actions in the Probate and Family Court.