What is Parenting Coordination and is it available in Nova Scotia

Parenting coordination is a non-adversarial form of dispute resolution for high conflict cases that goes beyond mediation, psychology, and a multitude of other family services. Parenting coordination is a non-confidential, child-centered process for parents *for whom mediation is inappropriate due to high levels of conflict. Parenting coordination is a response to the significant number of children caught in the middle of the custody battle(s) and post-divorce court proceedings.

The legal system has become overwhelmed with the needs of high conflict families and Covid-19 has not improved the situation. In many parts of Canada, including Nova Scotia, the courts have begun to recognize the limitations of referring these families to psychologists. In Nova Scotia, many psychologists and social workers are so busy with their clients that they are unfortunately, unable to take on new files from the court.

Included in these are home studies, which the judges use to understand the home environment for the children involved. The court system does not have the resources or manpower to monitor parental behaviors in order to hold parents accountable. These high conflict cases often burden the courts with the increase of frequency of appearance in court.

In other parts of Canada, the appointment of the parenting coordinator and the rules governing the process varies in. For example, in the province of British Columbia (BC), their Family Law Act places the safety and best interests of the child first, when families have decided not to live together anymore. It is through the BC Family Law Act that the Parenting Coordination role is defined and regulated. In my opinion, BC is the most progressive province when it comes to Parenting Coordinator and its rules.

Parenting coordination was created due to the impact of high conflict on children. The role has evolved slowly over the last 15 years here in Canada. Sadly, after searching for what was available in Nova Scotia, it came to my attention that there is nothing currently in place in legislation in the Family Law Act of Nova Scotia. However, that did not stop me from seeking out the training and becoming a Parenting Coordinator.

In my years of mediation practise, I’ve noticed an increase of inquiries for families that are in conflicts surrounding:

  • Parenting schedules
  • Educational decisions (including choice of schools)
  • Participation in extracurricular activities
  • Communication between parents
  • Holiday schedules
  • Pick-up and drop-off of children

Ironically, these are also all the areas that a Parenting coordinator is trained to assist families with, as they are all child focused.

This is ultimately what led me to research what training was available to assist clients and more importantly the children. In theory once you have a custody order and/or divorce or separation agreement in place — you and your ex should be able to co-parent without any disputes. However, in some cases of a divorce or separation, the implementation of a parenting plan can be challenging. This is where a trained Parenting Coordinator , like me, can be of grave assistance.

Parenting Coordination is most helpful for parties who have reached a general parenting agreement, but who might have ongoing communication issues that impede their ability and quality to co-parent effectively after separation. Parenting Coordination is often one of the more cost-effective alternative dispute resolution methods for dealing with ongoing parenting concerns.

Parenting Coordination is both about educating the parents on strategies that may help them communicate with each other, as well as, with their child(s). The parenting coordination helps parents carry out their parenting agreements, responsibilities and/or orders. A parenting coordinator does not create or change parenting arrangements, they merely help parents resolve disagreements about how parenting agreements or orders are put into effect.

For example, if your agreement or order about parenting time says you pick the child up on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but you and the other parent disagree about the pick-up time, a parenting coordinator can help solve the disagreement. This keeps you and the other parent from having to go back to court over small issues.

A parenting coordinator will try to help you and the other parent solve the disagreements about your parenting arrangements.
If you cannot agree, then a parenting coordinator can make the decision for you both (this is called a “determination”). In this case, the parenting coordinator’s determination is binding and you both must follow it.

A parenting coordinator cannot make any determination that fundamentally changes your agreement or order. This is because the parenting coordinator’s role is to help you carry out, not change, existing agreements or orders.

You can agree to get a parenting coordinator yourselves, or a judge can order you to see a parenting coordinator if you reside in an area of Canada that has Parenting Coordination in their Family Law Act and if the Judge feels your family needs one.

Parents who agree to try parenting coordination rather than going back to court will meet with a parenting coordinator and sign a Parenting Coordination Agreement that outlines the role, objectives and scope of the parenting coordinator’s services, as well as the rights and obligations of each parent. The parenting coordinator will usually be retained for a fixed period up to two years.

For more information about Parenting Coordination and my services.

Angela Mercier Q.Med. Cmcert. PC, CDFA
Qualified Mediator/ Conflict Management Specialist/ Parenting Coordinator/ Certified Divorce Specialist

Sources in text: *(Baris etal.,2001 p.220)

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