Divorce is often a contentious process, and when there are children involved, the conflict between estranged Florida spouses is often exacerbated. The stakes in a child custody battle are high, but these disputes often end up hurting the children the couple is fighting over. In cases like these a parenting coordinator may be able to help.
Florida and some other states provide the option of getting a parenting coordinator, under State Statute 61.125. They can be brought in by the court to "provide a child-focused alternative dispute resolution process" in cases where a couple is having problems working out custody arrangements or co-parenting under the current arrangements. There are special provisions, however, in cases where there has been domestic violence.
The process for appointing a parenting coordinator, and that person's role, may vary by state. However, they are generally there to facilitate communication by the parents in "high-conflict" custody cases so that a custody plan can be worked out that is best for the children. If parents still cannot reach an agreement on an issue, the coordinator may actually step in and make the decision.
The parenting coordinator, unlike an attorney, does not represent one spouse or the other. He or she is there to keep the couple's focus on the children rather than on their own anger and other emotions.
Parenting coordinators can be of great help when a couple's relationship has soured so badly that they are just not able to put their feelings aside to sit down and work out a co-parenting plan. However, the use of a parenting coordinator still requires some level of cooperation by both spouses and willingness to cede some of what they want for the good of their children. Sometimes the coordinator makes decisions that neither of them likes or points out uncomfortable truths that they don't want to hear.
While bringing in a third party to resolve child custody issues is probably no one's first choice, it may help turn down the temperature between battling spouses and allow them to more easily work out a plan for parenting their children that will minimize what is probably an already-stressful situation for the kids. Divorce attorneys can help advise their clients about the pros and cons of bringing in a coordinator for their specific case and work with the court to bring one in to facilitate the custody negotiations.
Source: Huffington Post, "Parenting Coordinators: Helping Parents Through High-Conflict Custody Cases" Nicole H. Sodoma and Robin Goulet, May. 08, 2014