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The Parenting Coordinator Role

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Presentation on theme: "The Parenting Coordinator Role"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Parenting Coordinator Role
Robin M. Deutsch, Ph.D. Children and the Law Program Massachusetts General Hospital

2 The Parenting Coordinator
Court ordered neutral to assist the parties to: Implement safe and workable parenting plan Monitor compliance with details of plan Resolve conflicts in timely manner Protect and sustain safe, healthy and meaningful parent-child relationships May be necessary when parental communication is conflictual or ineffective, or to promote safety of vulnerable parties, including children and parents.

3 Call for a new role in the ADR spectrum
Intensive case management Small group of chronic high conflict custody situations (10%) Court delegated authority Immediate resolution of disputes Non-adversarial forum

4 The tragic legacy of the Litigation Context
Litigants don’t make good coparents Representation - advocacy Distrust Sabotage Win/lose Chaos Unilateral action In the name of the child Focus on the problem being the other parent -adversaries Depleted resources - financial,emotional Matt Sullivan, 2007

5 Range of disputes resolved
Detailed Court order contains areas of decision making The PC shall not make any decision which alters award of legal or physical custody

6 Call for a new role Colorado lawyers and mental health professionals (1992) Northern California model derived from mediation and special master statutes (Marin County)

7 AFCC takes the lead for interdisciplinary role
2001 interdisciplinary Task Force on Parenting Coordination Described manner in which jurisdictions in US have used PC April 2003 report Parenting Coordination: Implementation Issues, Family Court Review, 41 2003 Task Force reconstituted Review of best practices in US and Canada led to Model Standards for Parenting Coordination May 2005 Guidelines approved by AFCC Board

8 Objectives of a PC model
Reduce conflict between parents Reduce chronic litigation (preserve family resources) Raise parents’ skill level in collaborative or parallel planning and decision making for their children Assist parents to co-parent in a way that promotes well being of the children Maintain, modify, mediate viable parenting plans

9 How ?? Intensive case management Court delegated authority
Immediate resolution of disputes Non-adversarial forum

10 When should a PC be appointed?
Ongoing disagreements between the parents about implementation of parenting plan Parties agree to decision maker outside of the Court to reduce cost and burden of continued litigation Some states: if history of extreme or unremitting conflict that affects welfare of the children, court can appoint without parties’ agreement

11 Does Parenting Coordination Work?
T. Johnston, 1994: Santa Clara County 166 cases with 933 court appearances Following the appointment of a PC, court appearances for the 166 cases reduced to 37 Vick and Backerman (1996): client satisfaction and self reported decreased conflict APA Parenting Coordination Program Argosy University/Washington DC (2007)

12 Parent Coordinators by another name
Special Master Wiseperson Ongoing GAL Med-arbitrator Parenting Referee Family Court Advisor

13 Statutory Authority Statutes in Minnesota, Oklahoma, Idaho Oregon, Colorado, Texas, North Carolina, Louisiana. Authorized through related statute in Arizona, California, Georgia, Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio, Wisconsin States with Non-Statutory Programs: Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont

14 Role Definition PC is NOT: Therapist Advocate for one party Coach
Parent Educator Counsel Mediator Custody Evaluator Judge

15 Distinct Role of Parenting Coordinator
Hybrid role: help implement, modify, mediate parenting plans Assess impasses to coparenting Educate about child development, communication, conflict resolution Mediate disputes Arbitrate

16 Functions of the PC: Assessment
Review of custody evaluation Review other evaluations/reports/records Review court orders, domestic violence protection orders and other applicable cases involving criminal assault, dv, child abuse Interview data leading to Parenting strengths and weaknesses (patterns of behavior, communication), Coparenting Skills, Children’s functioning and needs over time Impasses and issues presented by parties

17 Functions of the PC: Education
Education (and coaching) Child Development and Adolescent needs Short term and long-term needs of the children and divorce research Effects of their behavior and conflict on children Parenting skills Communication skills Conflict resolution skills and collaboration strategies Perspective taking Family Issues (new transitions, relationships)

18 Functions of the PC: Coordination/Case Management
Communication with family members including extended family, stepparents, and significant other caretakers Communication with schools Communication with therapists Communication with physicians Communication with child protection agency Communication with legal professionals

19 Functions of the PC: Intervention and Conflict Management
Assist parties to work out disagreements regarding the children to minimize conflict Assist in interpreting and implementing court-ordered parenting plan Utilize Dispute Resolution skills: Negotiation, mediation, arbitration Facilitate communication between parties as appropriate (monitor fax, , written exchanges) Techniques tailored to avoid offering opportunity for further coercion

20 Functions of the PC: Decision-making
When parents cannot resolve disputes, PC makes decisions to extent described in court order If statute allows, may provide report or recommendations to court All decisions made in timely manner and oral decisions followed up by written version

21 Scope of Issues to be addressed by PC
Minor changes or clarification of parenting time/access schedules or conditions including vacation, holidays, and temporary variation from existing parenting plan Transitions/ exchanges of the children including date, time, place, and transportation and transporter Health care management including medical, dental, orthodontic, and vision care. Child-rearing issues Psychotherapy or other mental health care including substance abuse assessment or counseling for the children

22 Psychological testing or other assessment of the children and parents
Education or daycare including school choice, tutoring, summer school, participation in special education programs, other major educational decisions Enrichment and extracurricular activities including camps, teams and jobs Religious observances and education Children’s travel and passport arrangements Personal possessions of children, including clothing and equipment

23 Communication between the parents about the children including telephone, fax, , notes in backpacks etc. Communication by a parent with children including telephone, cell phone, pager, fax and when not in that parent’s care Alteration of appearance of the children including haircuts, ear and body piercing, and tattoos Role of and contact with significant others and extended families Substance abuse assessment or testing for either or both parents or child, including access to results Parenting classes for either or both parents.

24 Issues not appropriate for Parenting Coordination
Determination or change in status of physical or legal custody award Custody evaluation Legal advice Family, couple, individual, child psychotherapy Consultation to a family member

25 Inappropriate Cases Non-compliance
Cases of sole legal custody (physical and legal) where normalization of contact not an option Incompetence due to mental illness Incarceration Ongoing maltreatment concerns

26 Implementation of PC role
Order of the court which has jurisdiction over the case Local rule Order of state Supreme Court Chief Justice applied to entire state court circuits or counties State legislature passes law authorizing appointment Kirkland, 2007

27 Legal authority: components of statue, order or local pattern
Define parenting coordinator Basis of authority Scope of authority Qualifications Consent vs. non-consent of parties Confidentiality Term of service Removal/resignation Qualifications: Minnesota and Idaho and Louisianarequire certifcation of mediation training; Louisiana MS or PhD inmental health field; Texas must have menatal health degree, though may be Bachelor’s Consent or not: Oklahoma high conflict; Colorado, fail to implement parenting plan; Minnesota, colorado, Texas records are privileged, though agreement of both parties waives the privilege (Mass lproposed legislation similar

28 Domestic violence screening Fee arrangements Quasi-judicial immunity
Grievance procedures Continuing jurisdiction Bartlett, 2005; Kirkland, 2007 Training: range from mediation hours (Minnesota is 40), to DV training (Idaho 20 hours; California 10 hours annually; texas 8 hours; to North Carolia’s comprehensive 24 hours in child development, high conflict family dynamics, stages and effects of divorce, problem-solving techniques, mediation, legal issues.

29 Substance abuse issues arise
Concern about effects of substance abuse on parenting capacities. Effect of substance abuse on lifestyle, child care and the parent-child relationship. Referral for assessment of patterns of use and risk to child. High rate of substance abuse in restraining order violators (1995 Massachusetts Office of the Commissioner of Probation)

30 Domestic Violence Screening (separate interviews)
Fear of violence or violence between parties Other forms of abusive and controlling behavior Consider risk to children A B C’s Attitudes toward use of violence, abuse and control Behaviors or threats of behaviors that are violent, abusive and controlling Consequences of violent, abusive and controlling behaviors or threats

31 Assessment Dangerousness/lethality indicators
Level of psychological/economic coercion Mental health problems Drug or alcohol use problem? Day-to day decisions Style of fighting when you disagree Anger management Police? Protective order?

32 Effect of domestic violence on parents involved in PC process
Increased risk of depression and post traumatic stress disorder in victims of DV Affects parenting Affects trust, willingness to comply with process, willingness to disclose concerns Use of poor coping resources in alleged perpetrator, e.g. rationalize behavior, minimize, deny, neutralize behavior Affects ability to engage in PC process


34 PARENTS’ RIGHTS Most basic and fundamental of rights
Guaranteed and protected by the US Constitution Other countries


36 PRIVACY “Zone of privacy” exists in marital relationship.
Individual right of privacy

37 PARENTS MUST CONSENT TO GIVE UP THEIR AUTHORITY TO MAKE DECISIONS TO THIRD PARTIES (OTHER THAN TO THE STATUTORY AUTHORITY OF THE COURT) Informed consent necessary. Except in Oklahoma, Court cannot order decision-making by PC without agreement of the parties.


39 COURT’S ROLE Parens Patriae Doctrine
Court retains authority and responsibility to review decisions/work of the PC What is the standard of review? In Mass – de novo.

40 Key Ethical Issues Are You Acting As A Licensed Professional?
Acting for Court or On Own? Informed Consent Are You Subject to “Psychotherapist” Law? Application of Ethics Codes

41 Be Aware of : Multiple roles Informed consent Confidentiality
Ex parte communication Bias Record keeping Fees

42 Standards of Practice AFCC Guidelines for Parenting Coordination ( Standards of profession of origin still apply, but may conflict Insurance Grievance process If standards of profession of origin conflict – which takes priority? Complete Equity Markets – go to AFCC website

43 Sources of Guidance Professional Ethical Standards and Codes, including, but not limited to: 2003 Revision of the APA Code Rules of Professional Responsibility for Lawyers, Social Work, LMFT, etc.

44 Sources of Guidance Review your profession of origin’s code for requirements regarding Competence Bases for Scientific/Professional Judgments Multiple Relationships Conflict of Interest Third Party Requests for Services Informed Consent

45 Sources of Guidance Note: If Acting In Role of Psychologist:
6.01 of APA… Seems To Require Records Be Created of Professional Activity 9.01 “Bases for Assessment” May Not Apply Directly if Parenting Coordination Does not Involve “Assessment,” But It Is Unclear Section 10 Standards Applying to Therapy Will Not Be Applicable To Role of Parenting Coordinator R. Deutsch, Ph.D.

46 Sources of Guidance Professional Ethical Standards and Codes, including the 2003 Revision of the APA Code: Psychological Services Delivered To Or Through Organizations Discussing the Limits of Confidentiality Documentation of Professional and Scientific Work and Maintenance of Records Fees and Financial Arrangements Bases for Assessments R. Deutsch, Ph.D.

47 Acting As Licensed Professional?
“This Ethics Code applies only to psychologists’ activities that are part of their scientific, educational, or professional roles as psychologists.” (APA Ethics Code, 2003)

48 Acting As Licensed Professional?
“Areas covered include but are not limited to the clinical, counseling, and school practice of psychology; research; teaching; public service; policy development; social intervention; development of assessment instruments; educational counseling; organizational consulting; forensic activities; program design and evaluation; and administration These activities shall be distinguished from the purely private conduct of psychologists ”

49 Acting As Licensed Professional?
If Acting as Parenting Coordinator Is Professional Activity Within Scope Of Licensure, Then Legal and Ethical Duties That Arise from Licensure Will Attach. Key Point: Process of Informed Consent For Provision of Services Is Crucial, Especially When Important Ethical Questions Remain Ambiguous

50 Acting As Licensed Professional?
Pragmatically: You Do Not Want To Be The Test Case in your state. Presume That Relevant Legal and Ethical Standards Apply To Activities As a Parenting Coordinator Is There Any Good Reason To Not Adhere To Relevant Ethics Codes In Role of Parenting Coordinator To Guide Good Practice?

51 Confidentiality No traditional confidentiality as in mediation, law or psychotherapy Written reports to the court? Arbitration Awards? Testifying?

52 (G-V.) Confidentiality
Not a confidential process PC shall report child abuse or if a family member a serious risk to harm him/herself, another family member or third party.

53 Confidentiality Issues
Exceptions To Confidentiality For Professional Interactions With a Licensed MHP Include: Client Consent for Disclosure Emergency Disclosures Duty To Warn/Protect Third Parties Mandated Reporting (Children, Elders, Etc.) Contemplation or Commission of Crime or Harmful Act (Social Workers, Allied Health/Human Only) Client Failure to Pay for Professional Services

54 (G-VIII.) Informed Consent
Authority and power of PC. Review the role with the parents at the first session Not giving legal advice or psychological services

55 Informed Consent Clarification of Process of Resolving Disputes
Disclosing Areas of Parenting Difficulty Nature of Any Confidentiality And Any Limits Nature of Any Testimonial Privilege and Limits

56 Informed Consent In Parenting Coordination
Reporting of suspected child abuse or neglect whether mandatory or voluntary reporter Reporting to law enforcement or other authorities if PC has reason to believe any family member appears to be at serious risk to harm self or other.

57 PC is not: Therapist Advocate for one party Counsel Mediator
Custody Evaluator Judge

Multiple Relationships vs. Multiple Roles PC shall not become a custody evaluator, even after term of involvement with family with consent of parties, because of differences in role and potential impact of role change Custody evaluator must be CAUTIOUS about becoming PC – note differences in role

59 Therapist, consultant, coach may not become the PC
PC may not become therapist, consultant, coach PC may not become one client’s lawyer One client’s lawyer may not become the PC

60 Challenges of Remaining Impartial and Objective (J. Kelly)
The polarized thinking of each parent about the other parent can be unsettling. Egregious behaviors, ignoring decisions, failing to pay fees can make PC angry. Some personality disorders turn us off. Be aware of own behavior that alert PC to lack of impartiality.

61 Maintaining Impartiality
Self awareness Act objectively and appear impartial, even if don’t feel impartial Be the child’s advocate Provide written rationale for decisions Respect your clients – listen to both sides Mediation training and experience Consultation group


63 Conflicts of Interest When relationship between PC and participants or subject matter of dispute compromises or appears to compromise PC’s impartiality PC discloses potential conflicts of interest as soon as possible after becoming aware of potential conflict

64 With written agreement PC can serve, but if impartiality impaired, PC shall withdraw
PC shall not create conflict by providing services to parties not directly related to PC process Use care in making referrals (no commissions, rebates)

65 Document Your Work Take good notes. Keep your file organized.
Document your decisions and their agreements in writing Establish early on the role of the attorneys.

66 Inappropriate Cases Non-compliance
Cases of sole legal custody (physical and legal) where normalization of contact not an option Incompetence due to mental illness Incarceration Ongoing maltreatment concerns

67 Special needs of pro se or pro per party
Detailed overview and clarification of PC appointment, process, and contract If one party has attorney and other is pro se, clear expectations about communications with attorney are communicated (preferably in writing) Purpose is to avoid perception or reality of bias

68 Boundary Challenges Pull for alignment Challenge to authority
Appeal for reprimand Role blur Unreasonable demands

69 Basic Guiding Principles
“Law of No Surprises” For Parents, Court, Attorneys or Others Involved in Your Activities Clarity About Role, Client, Understanding of Your Legal and Ethical Obligations Informed Consent As A Process (Not A Moment) That Is Crucial, Detailed and Ongoing Use Of Appropriate Consultation, Reliance Upon Codes, Standards, and Best Practices From Robert Kinscherff, Ph.D., J.D. 4/03

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