Presentation on theme: "The Parenting Coordinator Role"— Presentation transcript:
1 The Parenting Coordinator Role Robin M. Deutsch, Ph.D.Children and the Law ProgramMassachusetts General Hospital
2 The Parenting Coordinator Court ordered neutral to assist the parties to:Implement safe and workable parenting planMonitor compliance with details of planResolve conflicts in timely mannerProtect and sustain safe, healthy and meaningful parent-child relationshipsMay 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 managementSmall group of chronic high conflict custody situations (10%)Court delegated authorityImmediate resolution of disputesNon-adversarial forum
4 The tragic legacy of the Litigation Context Litigants don’t make good coparentsRepresentation - advocacyDistrustSabotageWin/loseChaosUnilateral actionIn the name of the childFocus on the problem being the other parent -adversariesDepleted resources - financial,emotionalMatt Sullivan, 2007
5 Range of disputes resolved Detailed Court order contains areas of decision makingThe PC shall not make any decision which alters award of legal or physical custody
6 Call for a new roleColorado 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 CoordinationDescribed manner in which jurisdictions in US have used PCApril 2003 report Parenting Coordination: Implementation Issues, Family Court Review, 412003 Task Force reconstitutedReview of best practices in US and Canada led toModel Standards for Parenting CoordinationMay 2005 Guidelines approved by AFCC Board
8 Objectives of a PC model Reduce conflict between parentsReduce chronic litigation (preserve family resources)Raise parents’ skill level in collaborative or parallel planning and decision making for their childrenAssist parents to co-parent in a way that promotes well being of the childrenMaintain, modify, mediate viable parenting plans
9 How ?? Intensive case management Court delegated authority Immediate resolution of disputesNon-adversarial forum
10 When should a PC be appointed? Ongoing disagreements between the parents about implementation of parenting planParties agree to decision maker outside of the Court to reduce cost and burden of continued litigationSome 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 County166 cases with 933 court appearancesFollowing the appointment of a PC, court appearances for the 166 cases reduced to 37Vick and Backerman (1996): client satisfaction and self reported decreased conflictAPA Parenting Coordination Program Argosy University/Washington DC (2007)
12 Parent Coordinators by another name Special MasterWisepersonOngoing GALMed-arbitratorParenting RefereeFamily Court Advisor
13 Statutory AuthorityStatutes in Minnesota, Oklahoma, Idaho Oregon, Colorado, Texas, North Carolina, Louisiana.Authorized through related statute in Arizona, California, Georgia, Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio, WisconsinStates with Non-Statutory Programs: Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont
14 Role Definition PC is NOT: Therapist Advocate for one party Coach Parent EducatorCounselMediatorCustody EvaluatorJudge
15 Distinct Role of Parenting Coordinator Hybrid role: help implement, modify, mediate parenting plansAssess impasses to coparentingEducate about child development, communication, conflict resolutionMediate disputesArbitrate
16 Functions of the PC: Assessment Review of custody evaluationReview other evaluations/reports/recordsReview court orders, domestic violence protection orders and other applicable cases involving criminal assault, dv, child abuseInterview data leading to Parenting strengths and weaknesses (patterns of behavior, communication), Coparenting Skills, Children’s functioning and needs over timeImpasses and issues presented by parties
17 Functions of the PC: Education Education (and coaching)Child Development and Adolescent needsShort term and long-term needs of the children and divorce researchEffects of their behavior and conflict on childrenParenting skillsCommunication skillsConflict resolution skills and collaboration strategiesPerspective takingFamily Issues (new transitions, relationships)
18 Functions of the PC: Coordination/Case Management Communication with family members including extended family, stepparents, and significant other caretakersCommunication with schoolsCommunication with therapistsCommunication with physiciansCommunication with child protection agencyCommunication with legal professionals
19 Functions of the PC: Intervention and Conflict Management Assist parties to work out disagreements regarding the children to minimize conflictAssist in interpreting and implementing court-ordered parenting planUtilize Dispute Resolution skills: Negotiation, mediation, arbitrationFacilitate 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 orderIf statute allows, may provide report or recommendations to courtAll 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 planTransitions/ exchanges of the children including date, time, place, and transportation and transporterHealth care management including medical, dental, orthodontic, and vision care.Child-rearing issuesPsychotherapy 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 decisionsEnrichment and extracurricular activities including camps, teams and jobsReligious observances and educationChildren’s travel and passport arrangementsPersonal 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 careAlteration of appearance of the children including haircuts, ear and body piercing, and tattoosRole of and contact with significant others and extended familiesSubstance abuse assessment or testing for either or both parents or child, including access to resultsParenting classes for either or both parents.
24 Issues not appropriate for Parenting Coordination Determination or change in status of physical or legal custody awardCustody evaluationLegal adviceFamily, couple, individual, child psychotherapyConsultation to a family member
25 Inappropriate Cases Non-compliance Cases of sole legal custody (physical and legal) where normalization of contact not an optionIncompetence due to mental illnessIncarcerationOngoing maltreatment concerns
26 Implementation of PC role Order of the court which has jurisdiction over the caseLocal ruleOrder of state Supreme Court Chief Justice applied to entire state court circuits or countiesState legislature passes law authorizing appointmentKirkland, 2007
27 Legal authority: components of statue, order or local pattern Define parenting coordinatorBasis of authorityScope of authorityQualificationsConsent vs. non-consent of partiesConfidentialityTerm of serviceRemoval/resignationQualifications: 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’sConsent 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 proceduresContinuing jurisdictionBartlett, 2005; Kirkland, 2007Training: 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 partiesOther forms of abusive and controlling behaviorConsider risk to childrenA B C’sAttitudes toward use of violence, abuse and controlBehaviors or threats of behaviors that are violent, abusive and controllingConsequences of violent, abusive and controlling behaviors or threats
31 Assessment Dangerousness/lethality indicators Level of psychological/economic coercionMental health problemsDrug or alcohol use problem?Day-to day decisionsStyle of fighting when you disagreeAnger managementPolice? 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 DVAffects parentingAffects trust, willingness to comply with process, willingness to disclose concernsUse of poor coping resources in alleged perpetrator, e.g. rationalize behavior, minimize, deny, neutralize behaviorAffects ability to engage in PC process
33 LEGAL AND ETHICAL ISSUES IN PARENTING COORDINATION Christie Coates, J LEGAL AND ETHICAL ISSUES IN PARENTING COORDINATION Christie Coates, J.D.
34 PARENTS’ RIGHTS Most basic and fundamental of rights Guaranteed and protected by the US ConstitutionOther countries
35 PARENTS HAVE A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT TO MAKE DECISIONS ABOUT THEIR CHILDREN WITHOUT THE INTRUSION OF THE STATE(SEE TROXELL V. GRANVILLE)
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.
38 DUE PROCESS RIGHT TO BE HEARD RIGHT TO HAVE NOTICE PROCESS MUST BE FAIR!
39 COURT’S ROLE Parens Patriae Doctrine Court retains authority and responsibility to review decisions/work of the PCWhat 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 ConsentAre You Subject to “Psychotherapist” Law?Application of Ethics Codes
41 Be Aware of : Multiple roles Informed consent Confidentiality Ex parte communicationBiasRecord keepingFees
42 Standards of PracticeAFCC Guidelines for Parenting Coordination (afccnet.org)Standards of profession of origin still apply, but may conflictInsuranceGrievance processIf standards of profession of origin conflict – which takes priority?Complete Equity Markets – go to AFCC website
43 Sources of GuidanceProfessional Ethical Standards and Codes, including, but not limited to:2003 Revision of the APA CodeRules of Professional Responsibility for Lawyers,Social Work, LMFT, etc.
44 Sources of GuidanceReview your profession of origin’s code for requirements regardingCompetenceBases for Scientific/Professional JudgmentsMultiple RelationshipsConflict of InterestThird Party Requests for ServicesInformed Consent
45 Sources of Guidance Note: If Acting In Role of Psychologist: 6.01 of APA… Seems To Require Records Be Created of Professional Activity9.01 “Bases for Assessment” May Not Apply Directly if Parenting Coordination Does not Involve “Assessment,” But It Is UnclearSection 10 Standards Applying to Therapy Will Not Be Applicable To Role of Parenting CoordinatorR. Deutsch, Ph.D.
46 Sources of GuidanceProfessional Ethical Standards and Codes, including the 2003 Revision of the APA Code:Psychological Services Delivered To Or Through OrganizationsDiscussing the Limits of ConfidentialityDocumentation of Professional and Scientific Work and Maintenance of RecordsFees and Financial ArrangementsBases for AssessmentsR. 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 CoordinatorIs There Any Good Reason To Not Adhere To Relevant Ethics Codes In Role of Parenting Coordinator To Guide Good Practice?
51 ConfidentialityNo traditional confidentiality as in mediation, law or psychotherapyWritten reports to the court?Arbitration Awards?Testifying?
52 (G-V.) Confidentiality Not a confidential processPC 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 DisclosureEmergency DisclosuresDuty To Warn/Protect Third PartiesMandated 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 sessionNot giving legal advice or psychological services
55 Informed Consent Clarification of Process of Resolving Disputes Disclosing Areas of Parenting DifficultyNature of Any Confidentiality And Any LimitsNature of Any Testimonial Privilege and Limits
56 Informed Consent In Parenting Coordination Reporting of suspected child abuse or neglect whether mandatory or voluntary reporterReporting 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 EvaluatorJudge
58 MULTIPLE RELATIONSHIPS Multiple Relationships vs. Multiple RolesPC 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 changeCustody 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, coachPC may not become one client’s lawyerOne 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 awarenessAct objectively and appear impartial, even if don’t feel impartialBe the child’s advocateProvide written rationale for decisionsRespect your clients – listen to both sidesMediation training and experienceConsultation group
63 Conflicts of InterestWhen relationship between PC and participants or subject matter of dispute compromises or appears to compromise PC’s impartialityPC 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 processUse 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 writingEstablish 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 optionIncompetence due to mental illnessIncarcerationOngoing maltreatment concerns
67 Special needs of pro se or pro per party Detailed overview and clarification of PC appointment, process, and contractIf 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 reprimandRole blurUnreasonable demands
69 Basic Guiding Principles “Law of No Surprises” For Parents, Court, Attorneys or Others Involved in Your ActivitiesClarity About Role, Client, Understanding of Your Legal and Ethical ObligationsInformed Consent As A Process (Not A Moment) That Is Crucial, Detailed and OngoingUse Of Appropriate Consultation, Reliance Upon Codes, Standards, and Best PracticesFrom Robert Kinscherff, Ph.D., J.D. 4/03