By Antonia Marran, Lawyer
Anyone involved in a high conflict parenting dispute knows that the turbulence does not end with the making of final orders. Certainly, there is relief attached to the certainty and security that final orders provide. However, the making of final orders is often the start of a new type of relationship, and not necessarily a harmonious one. The implementation of such orders can be fraught. The reality is orders cannot provide for every situation and scenario. Orders require interpretation and with that comes a degree of shared goals and values if alignment is to be reached. Parents who have struggled to agree on parenting issues find that their relationship dynamic continues to frustrate the process. This is because, understandably, parents who have endured the emotional and financial trauma of litigation have very little left in the tank when it comes to goodwill and respect for one another. The Court process is focused on final outcomes and reaching agreements so the parties can go their separate ways, but parties who are also co-parents will always be connected to each other by their children. Managing this relationship takes a huge amount of insight, maturity, support and strength. Few of us are equipped to do this from the outset. Which is why services such as parenting co-ordination are emerging as a new resource in family law. In a nutshell:
- A parenting co-ordinator is a trained profession such as a lawyer, social worker or dispute resolution practitioner who assists parents manage their parenting arrangements during and after final orders have been made.
- Parenting co-ordinators can be court appointed in orders and generally it is for a period of up to 24 months.
- Parenting co-ordination provides parents with assistance to develop techniques to manage the conflict that arises when implementing orders. For example, negotiate unexpected time swaps, sharing of children’s items and decision-making regarding homework or extracurricular activities.
- Parenting coordinators can use tools such as email monitoring to assist in the coaching of parents to communicate in an appropriate way.
- Regular attendance on a parenting coordinator provides parents with the opportunity to resolve their disputes without the need to return to family lawyers or the Court which in turn reduces costs and animosity.
- Parenting coordination is accessible and can be conducted in-person or online and therefore suitable for all families.
- Parenting coordination is non confidential and reportable to the Court.
Mills Oakley has a number of qualified parenting co-ordinators including: Rachael Murray, Susan Warda, Emily Wood & Antonia Marran