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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.
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
London and surrounding areas:
A larger listing of family arbitrators in Ontario is
Referral and service process:
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):
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.
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.
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
For information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, click here.
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