Parent Coordinators and Co-Parent Counselors: How They Help in High-Conflict Custody Disputes

If you have just entered the final order in a high-conflict custody dispute, the thought of spending the next several years in constant contact with your ex-spouse or partner may make you cringe. Find out how parent coordinators and co-parent counselors can help you move past the conflict, saving yourself time and money, so you can avoid going back to court.

Parents in High-Conflict Custody Disputes Know the Revolving Door of the Courthouse

When some families fall apart, they fall hard. High-conflict custody disputes can arise when partners have a history of:

  • Anger (justified or otherwise)
  • Distrust
  • Poor communication
  • Lack of cooperation
  • Verbal abuse
  • Threats
  • Physical aggression
  • Domestic violence
  • Excessive litigation

Some couples are able to put aside their differences and focus on the children after the custody order and parenting time plan have been entered. However, in high-conflict situations there is a real chance that the entry of that order is anything but final. Often, parents in high-conflict situations end up filing many post-judgment motions to modify, enforce, and adjust their parenting time plans based on their ongoing inability to communicate or work with their co-parent. This can add up to thousands of dollars of attorney fees and hours in the courthouse, even after you thought your custody case was over.

Parent Coordinators and Co-Parent Counselors Provide Alternatives to Post-Separation Custody Motions

If the idea of fighting over every medical decision, every birthday party, and every high-conflict custody exchange makes you feel like you are pushing a boulder up a hill, you may want to speak with your custody visitation attorney about other options instead of yet another parenting time enforcement motion. Two of these options, co-parent counselors and parent coordinators, give you out-of-court options to learn how to resolve disputes on your own and get help dealing with a difficult co-parent.

What is a Co-Parent Counselor?

Co-parenting counseling is a form of therapy that helps parents focus on how to work together to parent their children in common. Unlike couples’ therapists, a co-parent counselor isn’t focused on the relationship between the parties. Instead, their goal is to teach co-parents how to communicate and raise concerns about their children in a way that protects the children’s relationship with each parent, and minimizes conflict and stress. While it is best for both parents to attend co-parenting counseling, even one parent can improve their parenting skills with a therapist and reduce the stakes of high-conflict co-parenting disputes heading back to court.

What Do Parent Coordinators Do?

Another option is for the parties to appoint a parent coordinator. While this person may be a mental health professional, they may also be an attorney or mediator. A parent coordinator (sometimes called a parenting coordinator or parenting plan coordinator) helps co-parents manage their parenting plan and resolve disputes. As a neutral third party, parent coordinators can help facilitate disagreements over parenting time exchanges, adjustments to the schedule, choosing a new pediatrician or school, or whether your child should get braces or have a restricted diet.

When appointed by a judge, parent coordinator responsibilities can also include monitoring how each parent complies with the parenting plan, and making decisions about the small conflicts that arise when you and your co-parent are at an impasse. A parent coordinator is not allowed to modify custody or make core legal custody decisions. That is the judge’s job. However, they may be able to help you avoid the courtroom and resolve custody disputes by acting as an alternative dispute resolution specialist.

Building a Parenting Coordinator Into Your Parenting Plan

Under California child custody laws, a parenting coordinator can only be appointed when the parties agree and sign a stipulated order requesting one. That means you cannot force your ex-spouse or partner to work with a parenting coordinator. However, you and your child visitation attorney can make a strong case for one by showing your co-parent how they:

  • Save time and money on attorney fees
  • Allow conflicts to be resolved faster than using the court system
  • Avoid angering the judge with frequent parenting plan modification and enforcement motions
  • Reduce conflict between the parties
  • Help parents put their children’s needs first
  • Act as a neutral third party (not on either parent’s side)

If you can agree that a parenting coordinator would help, you can stipulate to the appointment of a specific parent coordinator and give them authority to monitor and enforce your parenting plan by filing a stipulation with the court.

At ADZ Law, LLP, our child custody attorneys can help you establish and enforce a safe post-separation parenting plan designed to minimize conflict and make it easy to resolve your disputes. We have worked with co-parent counselors and parent coordinators before, and we know how helpful they can be in resolving a high-conflict child custody dispute. We invite you to contact ADZ Law, LLP to schedule a consultation to learn more about our team, and how we can help your family when conflict is high.