Does A Guardian Coordinator Assist In Excessive Battle Custody Circumstances?

Unhappy young girl in custody battle


In high-conflict custody cases, professionals such as lawyers, judges, social workers and psychologists often recommend appointing a parenting coordinator (“PC”) to assist these high-conflict parents in reaching agreements outside of court.

What is a parent coordinator?

Parent coordinators are specially trained professionals whose work focuses on helping parents manage their parenting plan, improve communication, and resolve disputes. The role of an educational coordinator depends on what a family needs, what the court may determine, and what laws are in place.

A pc can be a mental health professional or a legal professional. The PC role is set out in guidelines and sometimes required by law, statute, or statute, with a clear scope of authority and required training to practice under state law. As a result, the practice of the pc is very different in different jurisdictions and states.

Different states have different rules for appointing PCs:

The Parental Coordinator is a relatively new practice used in some states to resolve ongoing issues in high-conflict custody and visiting cases through a professional psychologist or a court-appointed or parent-approved attorney.

Under California custody laws, a parental coordinator cannot be appointed unless the parties agree and sign a pre-determined order requesting one. That said, you can’t force your ex-spouse or partner to use a PC.

Under New York law, the court does not appoint a parent coordinator. Parents must agree to the selection of a parent coordinator themselves and, with the help of their lawyers, determine the limits and scope of the pc’s powers. The power of the court or the parents to make decisions for the children cannot be transferred to the pc.

In Florida, in any activity where a judgment or order has been requested or entered to adopt, establish or change an educational plan, with the exception of proceedings against domestic violence and with the consent of the parties, the motion of the court or the motion of a Party, the court may appoint a parent coordinator.

In Pennsylvania, upon submitting a final custody decision, a judge may appoint a parenting coordinator to resolve parenting issues in cases where there are repeated or unresolvable conflicts between the parties over the implementation of the final custody decision.

In Ohio, the court may appoint a parenting coordinator if it determines: (A) The parties have not cooperated and / or communicated adequately or failed to carry out a parenting plan on matters involving the child (s) or schedule for parenting; (B) Either or both parties have a medical or mental illness or disability that prevents them from reaching agreements or making adjustments in their parenting schedule, even if they are a minor, without assistance. (C) The appointment of a parent coordinator is in the best interests of the child or children involved in the process; (D) As agreed by the parties.

When is the appointment of a pc NOT appropriate?

The APA (American Psychological Association) advises that parents with past or current domestic or intimate partner violence (IPV) may be at significant safety or power imbalances and may not be suitable for parenting coordination. The terms “high conflict” and “domestic violence” are often used interchangeably but do not describe the same interactions. Of paramount importance are the patterns of violence characterized by coercion and control (“Domestic Violence: Coercion and Control Equals Loss of Freedom, Confidence, and Dignity for Women,”, March 19, 2021), psychological abuse, and intimidation and the threat of harm, economic control, and often severe physical and sexual violence. Victims of such violence are at a very high risk after separation and in controversial custody cases and can best be served before and after the divorce through judicial intervention.

What is the difference between “high conflict” and “domestic violence”?

In 2019, the AFCC (Association of Family and Arbitration Courts) published its “Parental Coordination Guidelines”, which were developed by its Parent Coordination Task Force 2017-2019. The guidelines define “conflicted” parents who are unable to resolve the vast majority or all of the disputes between them regarding the health, education, general well-being and the process of educating their children together.

Intimate intimate partner violence (IPV) is defined by the AFCC as physically aggressive behavior that involves the deliberate use of violence and which can lead to injury, harm, disability, or death. In addition to physical and sexual violence, this also includes the “forced control of behaviors that lead to harmful behavior that subordinates the will of another through violence, intimidation, urgency, isolation and / or control. ”

Narcissism and Parent Coordination

As in a column on Mothers: How to Litigate Child Custody With a Narcissist (, September 10, 2020), numerous articles, blogs and posts on narcissism and custody are available online. The stories tell of the struggles of one parent with a pc and a narcissistic other parent and how the narcissist uses and abuses the other parent by dominating the sessions and creating situations with the children where the narcissist believes that the pc has to “step in” to “protect the children” and report on scenarios, often in the past, without telling the other parent, that the pc has to act.

In these scenarios, the pc’s ability to shut down the use of its services by the bullying parent is tested. Ken Neumann, PhD, director of the Center for Mediation and Education, a parenting coordinator in New York State, uses “guilt” to convince parents that if they continue this behavior, they will cause harm to their child. He also meets with the children and goes to their parents’ home. For the bully: “Have you found this technique helpful in the past? Did you get what you wanted Did you find more helpful things? How did your children react to this behavior? “Ken ends with” no parent deliberately wants to “screw up their kids”.

The bullying parent can fire the pc and start elsewhere with a new person if he doesn’t like the pc’s decisions. To avoid this result, careful wording must be included in agreements and / or court orders.

When is PC use most successful?

A qualified and trained parenting coordinator can be beneficial for parents who have difficulty communicating or working with one another. A parent coordinator can be a successful tool in litigation with parents.

To the Courts: It is a success when it reduces retrospective litigation and petitions to contempt that consume valuable court resources that could be better used elsewhere.

For the Children: There is a financial benefit in saving money on litigation that can be used towards the children’s college education. Less litigation generally means that the children are not torn apart by their parents to take one parent’s position over the other, which reduces the stress on the children and allows them to love both parents.

To the parents: Over time, the pc gets to know the family and can help them resolve disputes faster than exercise practice in court. This, in turn, can save parents money on litigation. A personal computer can also provide helpful resources to support the family in their community.

Parents need to believe that going to court is a last resort. If parents adopt this thinking, the chance of success at working with a pc is very likely.

Ken Neumann says he feels successful as a PC when the parents stand next to each other while the child is playing football and then all can eat pizza afterwards.

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