Most parents are able to coparent effectively after divorce, either by cooperating with each other or simply allowing each other to parent in his or her own way. Some couples—estimates vary from 10 to over 20 percent–experience such distrust and hostility that parenting is impaired and their children suffer along with them, long after the divorce itself is over.
In recent years, a new approach has evolved to help such high-conflict couples. Courts can appoint, or parents can agreed to select, a parenting coordinator. The parenting coordinator’s job is to assess the situation, to counsel and educate the parents, and to manage the conflict either by acting as a mediator or by making decisions as an arbitrator. His or her primary role is to help to work out disagreements about the children and minimize conflict. The parenting coordinator can help to provide ongoing structure and support after divorce for an indefinite period of time.
A parenting coordinator should be trained as a mediator, with a background in law or mental health, and with extensive practical experience in working with families. The parenting coordinator must be fair and impartial and should not be someone the parties have dealt with in another capacity, for example, as a therapist or attorney, because the role of parenting coordinator is distinctly different.
It is sometimes difficult to know whether conflict is occurring because of emotional dysfunction in one or both parents or because the divorce itself is triggering extraordinary levels of distress. For children, suffering from parental dynamics that are hostile, abusive, or distrustful, it may not matter. A parenting coordinator can be helpful in managing short-term or long-term conflict.
The parties can agree on a parenting coordinator privately or ask the court to appoint one. The parties can propose a certain parenting coordinator to the court or the judge can decide who to appoint. However, there is no official parenting coordinator training program or list of Parenting Coordinators in Maryland yet.