Ethical and Process Dilemmas Encountered by Parenting Coordinators

A Presentation Given to the British Columbia Association of Mediators & Arbitrators Symposium

By Bob Finlay, MA, RCC, RFT., July 21, 2012

I think it would be fair to say that my Parenting Coordinator colleagues would agree with me, that high conflict families with whom we work are some of the most difficult and challenging cases that any of us have had to deal with in our entire career. Having said that, the implementation of a Parenting Coordinator program in the province of British Columbia has started to make a positive difference in the way that we manage high conflict cases. I hope to be able to say more about this as I speak to you about the ethical and process challenges encountered by Parenting Coordinator’s.

Parenting Coordination is designed to meet three primary objectives, first, to implement and monitor the parenting plan which is developed by consent between the parties or by Court Order; secondly, to reduce conflict between the parties using mediation, educating, coaching and making determinations (arbitration) by being responsive to high conflict family needs, usually within a 12 to 24 hour period or less and third, ensuring that the best interests of the child is the primary consideration in making decisions or in assisting the parties to make decisions.

Parenting Coordination began in 2008 when several key individuals in the Province arranged for Joan Kelly to come to Vancouver to speak to interested professionals on Parenting Coordination. Dr. Kelly is a well-known Psychologist from California who has also acted as a Parenting Coordinator for a number of years under the California Legislation. In California, they refer to Parenting Coordinator’s as Special Masters who are given authority by the Court to make decisions where parents are unable to agree. Parenting Coordination in British Columbia took another step forward when following the training by Dr. Kelly, a non-profit society was formed with a Board of Directors. Since that time, a roster of Parenting Coordinators has been established, training standards and a code of conduct have also been written and implemented and new Parenting Coordinators are being recruited from around the Province.