What is Parenting Coordination?

Sunshiaa Aiteeneyas

November 15, 2023

Remember that not all circumstances in a divorce are the same and that not all parties separate amicably. Often separating parties find it difficult to mutually agree on decisions about children. If the children are at the center of the divorce battle, then several decisions are required to be made. For instance, where the parties will meet to exchange the children or whether a previously agreed-to location can be changed. 

A parenting coordinator is a neutral third party brought into family law cases to reduce the level of conflict between parents about parenting arrangements or parenting orders. Under the Family Law Act, parenting coordinator is an alternative dispute resolution process. Generally, they may be family law lawyers, social workers, counsellors, or psychologists. For many high-conflict cases, the parenting coordinators have accomplished assisted parents with making decisions that are difficult to make on their own. For instance, they assist parents with the successful implementation of the parties’ parenting plan. If there is a dispute with respect to the parenting plan, the parenting coordinators will try to mediate an agreement between the parties. Parenting coordinators employ a child-focused method of alternative dispute resolution used in high-conflict cases.  


What is defined as a high-conflict custody case? 

This is a situation where the parents cannot agree on decision-making responsibilities and parenting time arrangements. This includes when parents cannot agree on the children’s best interests, lack communication, and are unable to make mutual decisions regarding the children. The legal process in a high-conflict parenting case is usually long and complicated. Allegations of domestic violence, child abuse, and alienation are common in high-conflict cases. In these cases, both legal and mental health practitioners agree that early intervention and assessment by the courts are necessary.  

In some instances, parents are unable to let go of the spousal relationship and use parental issues to try to hold on to it. Sometimes one parent may use the parenting arrangement as a way of maintaining or exerting control or of exacting revenge. Frequent court applications and lengthy affidavits requiring responses may be used to punish and exhaust the other parent emotionally and financially. One or both of the parties may still be very emotionally engaged. Where there is an eruption of marital conflict, children may lack confidence and become hesitant to move forward or may move forward in a dysfunctional way. See Jackson v Jackson (2008) CanLii 3222 as this case provides an excellent review of the literature on high-conflict divorce.  


How does a parenting coordinator get involved? 

Judges can appoint parenting coordinators, or former partners can choose them. Judges cannot order parenting coordinators without the consent of the parties. If the relationship between the parties are difficult, especially in terms of communication and cooperation then it makes sense for the parties to accept the parent coordinators’ involvement.  

If you have questions or concerns about how to navigate your family law case, please get in touch with us for more information and speak to one of our experienced Family lawyers in Pickering, Markham, Toronto, or Scarborough. You can call us at (905)-492-7662 or email us at [email protected] to schedule a consultation.