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Considering a Parenting Coordinator?

 

New rules impacting the role of Parenting Coordinator in Ontario

 

Article in National Post

 

 

An interesting Question and Answer discussing Parenting Coordinator.

 

Lawyers must play nice too!

Referral Information Form

Parent Coordinator Agreement Form

 

 

 

Why I use a Sliding Fee Scale

 

 

Parenting Coordinator

In high-conflict separations or divorces, parenting issues may arise with greater frequency that continue to bring parents back to Court for resolution. This strategy is both untimely and expensive. An alternate strategy to manage such disputes as they arise is through the use of a Parenting Coordinator. 

A Parenting Coordinator is a neutral person to whom parents can turn when in dispute on matters relating to the children. Parents may access the service of a Parenting Coordinator in a more timely fashion and costs are almost always less than going to Court, but this is not a guarantee. 

The role of the Parenting Coordinator is to help parents resolve disputes with regard to the implementation or follow-through of a pre-existing parenting plan, separation agreement, minutes of settlement or any other contract with regard to the care of children between them or any other agreed upon parenting matter. To be clear, the parenting coordinator is to address and help facilitate a pre-existing parenting plan or resolve new unanticipated issues. The parenting coordinator typically does not substantially change pre-existing agreements on a permanent basis, unless specifically empowered to do so. This is distinguished from mediation/arbitration where there may not yet be an existing parenting agreement and where the mediator/arbitrator is given jurisdiction to address any issue brought forward by either parent or as mutually predetermined by agreement. These may appear to be fine distinctions and to understand fully, you may need to consult a lawyer.

In the Province of Ontario, Parenting Coordinators typically act in two capacities with the same clients: mediator and arbitrator. In other words, if the parents in Parenting Coordination are unable to resolve their issue(s) by way of mediation (which may include coaching, education, guidance, etc.) then the Parenting Coordinator would arbitrate the matter, meaning that the same person would go from one who helps facilitate decisions between the parents to one who makes decisions on their behalf.  

My approach to Parenting Coordination is different. It is my experience that when the same service provider functions as both mediator and arbitrator, once a matter is arbitrated, many persons consider the Parenting Coordinator biased in favour of whom the arbitrated decision was most closely aligned. This then may undermine the spirit of Parenting Coordination, creating the conditions that can lead to the termination, withdrawal or dismissal of the Parenting Coordinator. Service is lost in its entirety.  

To reduce that likelihood, my approach to Parenting Coordination separates the two functions. I will act in the role of mediator. In the mediation phase of service, I will work with the parents to help them resolves disputes between themselves as best as possible. This phase of service is what is called “closed”, meaning what transpires in the mediation phase cannot be used or communicated for arbitration or court purposes even if your lawyers are included in the mediation phase of service. In the event of an impasse, service then passes to the arbitrator, a second person named specifically for this function who will make decisions binding upon the parents. With this approach, the neutrality of the mediator may be preserved and the parents can return to the mediator to help resolve other disputes.   

Parents entering Parenting Coordination will need to specify their chosen approach and service providers. Parenting coordination may include only the mediation function or both mediation and arbitration, although the arbitration function will be provided by a second person who is to be named prior to the onset of service that includes both functions. The second person named will have to consent to service and the service process for arbitration will be determined by that service provider. If the parent only chooses mediation, then in the event of an impasse, their matter may return to court for resolution. Parents will need to discuss these process options with a lawyer to determine the approach best suited to them.  

With regard to costs associated with the Parenting Coordinator service specifically, parents typically divide these costs equally unless there is a prior agreement to do otherwise or unless there is an Order of the Court specifying how costs are to be distributed between them. The matter of distribution of costs must be determined by the parents, lawyers or Courts, prior to referral. If over the course of service a parent wishes to dispute the allocation of costs between themselves and are unable to resolve this through mediation, then this would be a matter for arbitration or litigation, bearing in mind that the mediation service is a closed process.  

Arbitrators available in Ontario include:

   

Kitchener/Waterloo and surrounding areas:

Don McIntyre: http://www.mcintyremcmurray.ca/contactus.html  

 

The Greater Hamilton Area and surrounding areas:

Vicky Ringuette: https://vmringuette.ca

Rick Shields: http://www.familydisputeresolution.com/s_arbitration.html  

 

London and surrounding areas:

Alf Mamo: http://www.mckenzielake.com/our-people/alfred-mamo  

 

A larger listing of family arbitrators in Ontario is available here:

http://www.adrcanada.ca/findapro-search.cfm

 

Referral and service process:

  1. A lawyer for either party must initiate contact for the purpose of referral. If one parent calls, then the other parent may consider the PC biased in favour the caller and this can undermine service. Hence the referral must come from the lawyer. 
  2. Please note, there can be considerable time and activity establishing the terms of service during the referral stage for the Parenting Coordinator service. These activities may include phone calls, faxes, emails, reading of information and/or meetings and/or other activities between lawyers representing the parents, the parents themselves, and the intended Parenting Coordinator. These activities will be accounted and billed for during the referral stage and will be billed either to the referring party or both parties jointly as will be determined at the time of the initial phone call. This account will be due regardless of whether the referral results in the actual Parenting Coordination Service. A retainer may be required to cover costs during the referral process.
  3. Please note, parents must obtain independent legal advice regarding the Parenting Coordinator Agreement, sign the agreement, attach a Certificate of Independent Legal Advice obtained from their lawyer and provide these materials with retainer to the Parenting Coordinator. Thereafter, the parents or their lawyers provide pertinent reports such as found in the pleadings brief and which can include affidavit material, reports of CAS involvement, prior assessments, etc. These would be read prior to setting meetings. 
  4. The Parenting Coordinator then meets with the parents separately and will screen for domestic violence and power imbalances. This may be conducted by phone. Thereafter, the Parenting Coordinator will meet with the parents either together or separately to get acquainted and to learn about them, their family histories, the children and current issues. During these meetings parents may provide signed consent permitting the Parenting Coordinator to gather information from other service providers relevant to their situation. These meetings are scheduled for 3 hours duration. 
  5. If the children are at least 3 years-of-age or otherwise at the Parenting Coordinator’s discretion, the Parenting Coordinator may meet with the children and/or parents with children, often at least twice. On one occasion one parent would bring them and on the other occasion the other parent would bring them. It may important for the Parenting Coordinator to chat with the children, to hear first hand their perception of issues.
  6. Lastly, the Parenting Coordinator may meet with both parents together in a joint session wherein issues of concern are discussed. If there is sufficient cause or reason that the parents cannot be seen together, alternate arrangements may be made, appropriate to the circumstances at the discretion of the Parenting Coordinator. If matters cannot be resolved through discussion, then either party or the Parenting Coordinator may call an impasse and move the matter to be settled by arbitration assuming an arbitrator has been preselected.
  7. On an ongoing basis, issues of concern may be brought to the parenting coordinator for resolution. Ongoing meetings and other sources of information required to assist in settling disputes may be required to assist in reaching a resolution.
  8. Information will be shared only upon written consent except where there is risk of harm to self or another person, or as required by law as it pertains to child protection matters. There is no recoding or posting of content or comments in any form or media by clients or their proxy although Gary Direnfeld may record any/all conversations at his discretion solely for accountability purposes in the event an issue with service arises. The service record is the property of Gary Direnfeld. Information obtained about persons served shall be used for service purposes, payment collection and/or, satisfaction surveys. Non-identifying information may be used for statistical, research or teaching purposes. However, the mediation phase with Gary Direnfeld is closed and neither he, note or reports can be used for court or arbitration purposes with regard to the parenting dispute between the parents.

Fees:

As a social worker, I am respectful of people's different income levels. As such, the fee is set on a fee-for-service basis using a sliding scale that ranges from $150 - $400 per hour. The actual fee then is determined by your joint income, or may be determined by your assets at the discretion of the Parenting Coordinator. You will be charged from the beginning of the scheduled appointment time, even if you are late.  Appointments cancelled with less than 48 hours (two business days) will be billed for one hour. Further, time will be taken at the beginning of the first meeting for me to present my qualifications, experience and approach to counselling so that service is provided on an informed basis. This is deemed part of the time provided and billed for.

A retainer for the referral stage of service may be required at my discretion. Thereafter service is provided on a fee-for-service basis. Clients agree to pay at the end of each meeting by either cash or cheque. In addition to direct service, you will be billed for any other time directed to your service. If a bill is submitted, payment will be due upon receipt of invoice. Delivery of a report and/or other work may be withheld pending receipt of any outstanding payment. Any cost incurred to collect payment on an outstanding account balance shall be added to the account. Billing will be on basis of actual time spent on any activity with regard to your file even past the expiration of the Parenting Coordination Agreement, charged at your set rate for service. 

Fee Schedule (based on joint income):

 Income

 Fee/hour

0   -    $75,000

 $150.00

 $75,000 - $100,000

 $175.00

 $100,000 - $125,000

 $200.00

 $125,000 - $150,000

 $225.00

 $150,000 - $175,000

 $250.00

 $175,000 - $200,000 

 $275.00

 $200,000 - $250,000

 $300.00

 $250,000 - $350,000

 $350.00

 $350,000 +

 $400.00

 

Third Party Payments (EAP and other Benefit Providers):

Pleased be advised that I do not accept payment by third party payers (benefit or EAP providers) whatsoever. People are directly responsible for payment of services as per the information above. A receipt will be provided with which persons can seek reimbursement from their EAP or benefit provider. I take no responsibility for your reimbursement. Reimbursement remains a matter between you and your benefit or EAP provider. 

If you do seek reimbursement through your benefit or EAP provider and I am called to verify the charge, I will do so with your implied consent. My disclosure will be limited to advising of my credentials as well as verifying the billing information, service provided and persons served. Please note, parenting coordination is a clinical-legal service and may not be covered.  No information regarding the nature or content of information discussed will be provided without signed consent, for which you will be charged as per the time required.

 To initiate service, please review the Referral Form and Parent Coordination Agreement with your lawyer and have your lawyer call to refer for service.

Referral Information Form

Parent Coordinator Agreement Form

Please note, people regularly come great distances to see me. If you are considering driving more than two or three hours, please let me know so I can set an appointment to accommodate your drive.

 

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

www.yoursocialworker.com 

gary@yoursocialworker.com

(905) 628-4847

 

Gary Direnfeld is a child-behaviour expert, a social worker, and the author of Raising Kids Without Raising Cane. Gary not only helps people get along or feel better about themselves, but also enjoys an extensive career in public speaking. He provides insight on issues ranging from child behaviour management and development; to family life; to socially responsible business development. Courts in Ontario, Canada consider Gary an expert on matters pertaining to child development, custody and access, family/marital therapy and social work.

 

Buy the book:

For information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, click here.

 

Are you the parent of new teen driver?  Check out this teen safe driving program: www.ipromiseprogram.com

20 Suter Crescent, Dundas, ON, Canada L9H 6R5  Tel: (905) 628-4847  Email: gary@yoursocialworker.com

Counselling and assessment services serving Hamilton, Dundas, Ancaster, Stoney Creek, Burlington, Brantford,

Oakville, Grimsby, Waterdown and other local areas.

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