Parenting Coordination and Facilitation
More than one million children each year are affected by divorce and family separation. Many of these divorcing parents engage in ongoing battles about their children for years. Children raised in an atmosphere of unrelenting conflict, even if it is not directly in their presence, are much more likely to grow up with serious emotional and behavioral difficulties. Not only are high-conflict parenting relationships damaging to children, they can require an inordinate amount of court time and financial resources that could be applied to the children. Parent coordinators and facilitators help parents develop and implement parenting plans that serve the best interest of their children and reduce conflict, court time, and expenses.
What is a Parenting Coordinator?
Parenting Coordination is a non-adversarial, confidential dispute resolution process that can be court ordered or can be agreed on by divorced or separated parents who have an ongoing pattern of high conflict about their children. Parent coordinators (PCs) serve several useful roles as neutral professionals focused on children's well-being. They provide accountability and oversight, compelling parents to comply with existing court orders. They also can help parents come to joint decisions about parenting and commit to these decisions in a parenting plan. Some of the issues that often unnecessarily drive divorced couples into repeated litigation are their children's education, extracurricular activities, discipline, and religious affiliation and participation.
Although parent coordinators do not function as mental health professionals, they do monitor the family's dynamics, paying particular attention to a child's need for a stable, healthy emotional climate. They also receive and assess information from people involved in the child's life such as counselors, other family members, and teachers.
Parenting coordinators serve as educators, providing parents with relevant information about co-parenting skills, child development, and available resources. They often are able to help parents locked in conflict over child-rearing issues see solutions that they couldn't find on their own.
Parenting coordination is a unique blend of parent support, advocacy, education, mediation, and monitoring, . It's important to remember that this role incorporates skills from many disciplines, and the coordinator may be licensed and educated in one or more of these, but they are not serving as a counselor, attorney, or mediator. Parent coordinators are not able to make substantive changes to court orders affecting possession and access or child support.
What is a Parenting Facilitator?
Parenting Facilitator (PF) is always a court appointed role. This professional serves the same roles as a PC, but the process is not confidential, and the PF makes reports to the court, and may testify and provide expert opinion in court. Also, the role of PF requires more qualifications and education that that of PC.
Is Parenting Coordination Confidential?
Yes. Parents must sign written consent for a PC to communicate with anyone else about their case. Other professionals, though, may share information with the PC, and the PC may choose whether or not to share with the parents the source of the information obtained. The PC may request that other people important in a child's life attend meetings. With both parent's agreement, this might include step family and extended family members. A parent coordinator may not testify in court.
In accordance with the Texas Family Code, Chapter 153, Subchapter J, Sec 135.608, "A parenting coordinator shall submit a written report to the court and to the parties as often as ordered by the court. In the report, the parenting coordinator may give only an opinion regarding whether the parenting coordination is succeeding and should continue." This reporting only if the sessions should continue or not is only directed towards the court.
Parenting Facilitation is not a confidential process. A PF is expected to make reports to the court and may be called to give expert opinion regarding the child's well-being and best interest.
What Are a Parenting Coordinator's or Facilitator's Qualifications?
Individual courts in Texas determine qualifications, but the PC must at least hold a bachelor’s degree in counseling, education, family studies, psychology, or social work and, unless waived by the court, complete a parenting coordinator course of at least 16 hours; or hold a graduate degree in mental health profession, with an emphasis in family and children’s issues. Additionally, a parenting coordinator appointed by the court must have at least 8 hours of family violence dynamics training provided by a family violence service provider.
According to Texas Family Code 153.6101, A parenting facilitator must:
(1) hold a license to practice in this state as a social worker, licensed professional counselor, licensed marriage and family therapist, psychologist, or attorney; and
(2) have completed at least:
(A) eight hours of family violence dynamics training provided by a family violence service provider;
(B) 40 classroom hours of training in dispute resolution techniques in a course conducted by an alternative dispute resolution system or other dispute resolution organization approved by the court;
(C) 24 classroom hours of training in the fields of family dynamics, child development, and family law; and
(D) 16 hours of training in the laws governing parenting coordination and parenting facilitation and the multiple styles and procedures used in different models of service.