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Managing Visitation in High-Conflict Situations

The Role of the Parenting Coordinator

Divorce Dictionary

A parenting coordinator is an individual, perhaps a psychologist familiar with matrimonial law, who works with both parents to iron out any problems that may arise after the divorce decree is in effect. Sometimes parenting coordinators are assigned by judges, but parents can also voluntarily choose to enlist the aid of a parenting coordinator.

Researchers and practitioners, such as Mitchell Baris, Carla Garrity, and Janet Johnston, who work with families in high-conflict divorce situations, have developed the concept of the parenting coordinator. The parenting coordinator, who must be familiar with family law, conflict resolution, mediation, family therapy, and child development, is not a mediator or a therapist. Instead, this third party works within the confines of the divorce decree to settle disagreements between parents as they pertain to the children. The parenting coordinator may report regularly to the court and can speak to the children's therapist. The therapist is protected from litigation so that she can work with the children without being pressured or manipulated by either parent.

The parenting coordinator can also be a facilitator between parents in high conflict. If one parent wants to send something to the children, he or she can send it to the parenting coordinator to make sure that the children receive it. The parenting coordinator may at times determine when the children are ready for increased visitation, which may have been shortened or curtailed because of the conflict. The parenting coordinator maps out a detailed parenting plan, which is agreed to by all parties. In fact, your state may require parents to file a “parenting plan” if custody is an issue in your divorce. In any case, the more detailed the plan, the less room for conflict.

Points covered in the parenting plan might include …

  • Visitation schedule. Sets a drop-off and pick-up time and place, designates a means for transporting children between households, institutes a set plan for handling a refusal to visit, and decides who is responsible when children are sick.
  • Schedule change requests. A set protocol for trading days or making last-minute changes.
  • Phone call policy. Should they be regulated? Should children be able to initiate phone calls in private at any time?
  • Toys and belongings. Provides guidelines for moving things between two households.
  • Boundaries or rules at other household. Neither parent can tell the other parent what rules to set; if abuse or possible abduction is suspected or concerns about parental judgment persist, the parenting coordinator, judge, or mediator must be contacted.
  • Pets. Establishes rules for moving them back and forth between homes with the children.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Surviving Divorce © 2002 by BookEnds, LLC. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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