Appointing a Parenting Coordinator: An Option in High Conflict Divorces


We’ve previously blogged about high-conflict divorces, or situations in which it is seemingly impossible for former spouses to agree on anything substantive relating to their children following the end of their relationship. In such situations, it may become necessary to appoint a parenting coordinator to assist the parties in decision-making.

What is a High-Conflict Divorce?

While it is not uncommon for separated and divorcing parents to have challenges with communication and effective cooperation, in a high conflict divorce such issues are ongoing, make decisions about even minor details impossible, and are often accompanied by additional concerns such as verbal or physical abuse.

Hallmarks of a high-conflict divorce can include:

  • Anger and distrust;
  • Verbal abuse;
  • Physical aggression or threats of same;
  • Difficulty communicating about children;
  • Difficulty cooperating with one another regarding children.

What is a Parenting Coordinator?

Parenting coordinators are neutral third parties, usually mental health professionals, social workers, or lawyers with extensive experience with high conflict families, child development, family systems, and dispute resolution.

The role of a parenting coordinator is to help the separated parties focus on the needs of their children, through facilitating communication, minimizing parental conflict, developing problem solving skills, and resolving outstanding issues.

More specifically, parenting coordinators will:

  • Help parents develop improved communication skills;
  • Educate parents about relevant principles in child development and how divorce may be affecting their children;
  • Assist parents with effective implementation of their Parenting Plan.

Parenting coordinators do not make any decisions about custody, access, or anything pertaining to a Parenting Plan. Any final decision making with respect to such matters must be made by a court. Rather, parenting coordinators generally assist parents in cooperating on minor decisions that may be causing conflict, such as where and when children should be dropped off for access visits, what extracurricular activities (if any) children ought to participate in, and similar.

Importantly, a parenting coordinator cannot be appointed unless both parties consent. Where parties do not agree on the appointment of a coordinator, a judge must make decisions on any issues the coordinator would have assisted on.

Parenting coordinators are playing an increasingly common role in family law disputes, and have been appointed relatively often on Ontario to help parents ensure that the best interests of their children are considered.

If you have questions about parenting coordinators, and whether they may be right for you and your children, contact call Jason P. Howie at 519.973.1500 or contact us online. We regularly assist clients with issues related to separation and divorce and children, including child custody and support, and shared parenting.

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