Parenting Coordinator in Calgary

What is Parenting Coordination?

Parenting coordination is a process that assists divorced or separated parents in co-parenting on an ongoing basis, regardless of whether they have primary or shared parenting. Parenting coordination typically commences after parents have received a Parenting Order or have completed a Separation Agreement. Parents must mutually agree with the selection of a parenting coordinator, who is usually a legal professional or a Mental Health Professional with extensive training in parenting coordination, Mediation, and Arbitration.

Once the parenting coordinator has been chosen and an agreement is signed, the parenting coordinator will address any immediate issues and help determine issues as they arise over time. The parenting coordinator will first attempt to mediate the issues, but if the parties cannot reach a resolution, the parenting coordinator has the authority to arbitrate the issues and make a binding award. The parenting coordinator can assist in many ways, including:

  • Setting up communication protocols to decrease conflict.  Co-parenting conflict often arises due to communication difficulties. Typical complaints include abusive emails, too frequent calls/emails, parents who do not respond to emails or calls, and communication through the children. If parents cannot agree upon communication protocols, a parenting coordinator can set detailed and binding rules in arbitration.
  • Help interpret confusing terms in the Order/Agreement.  Parents often need help deciphering the meaning of specific clauses in their agreements/orders. A parenting coordinator can assist parents in understanding the terms of an agreement or make a binding arbitrated decision as to the interpretation if the parents cannot reach an agreement.
  • Assist by enforcing terms in the Order/Agreement that are being breached.  Parents are often frustrated by breached parenting rules. A parenting coordinator can direct that there be consequences for such behaviour. Often, the result includes costs against a parent or extra make-up time.
  • Help parents make difficult decisions.  Difficult parenting decisions arise often and typically include schooling choices, activity/sports choices, holiday/special occasion issues, health concerns, and pick-up/drop-off difficulties. As these issues arise, a parenting coordinator can quickly help mediate them and, if necessary, make a binding arbitrated decision.
  • Educate parents to co-parent without conflict.  The ultimate goal of a parenting coordinator is to assist parents in co-parenting without the necessity of a parenting coordinator, lawyers, and/or the Courts.

What are the steps involved to start and proceed with Parenting Coordination?

  • Once parents have a Separation Agreement or Court Order, they choose a parenting coordinator. The parties should jointly contact their preferred parenting coordinator and ensure that they have adequate time in their schedule to take on the file.
  • A Parenting Coordination Agreement is signed with the parenting coordinator. The parties will often also obtain a Consent Order from the Court setting out their agreement to engage in parenting coordination. The Agreement will include terms giving the parenting coordinator jurisdiction under the Arbitration Act of Alberta to arbitrate issues that cannot be mediated.
  • Every parenting coordinator has their own individual process. However, they will typically have individual meetings with both parents and will read any required documents to provide them with a history of the family and their circumstances. Immediate issues will be canvased, and a plan will be made to address them. Usually, the parents attend a mediation session (in the office or Zoom) to address these issues and to set up other basic protocols. If needed, further discussion and mediation continue by meeting, telephone, or email.
  • If the issues cannot be resolved in mediation, the parenting coordinator will arbitrate them using a cost- and time-efficient process. The decision will be set out in a binding Arbitration Award, which may be put into a Court Order.
  • Should other issues arise during the parenting coordination (2 years is recommended), the concerned parent may contact the parenting coordinator by phone or email. Given the concern, the parenting coordinator will typically attempt to mediate the dispute with meetings, phone calls, or emails, whichever is most timely and cost-effective. Once again, if the issue cannot be resolved with mediation, it will be put to arbitration, and a binding decision will be made.
  • If issues require other professional services, such as child counselling, the decision will be made by consensus or arbitration.

Are Parenting Coordination decisions binding?

If the parenting coordination includes arbitration powers, the arbitrated decisions are binding by the Arbitration Act of Alberta. If desired, a parent may seek to have the Court enter the award terms in a Court Order. The decisions are appealable to the Court of King’s Bench of Alberta under the terms of the Parenting Coordination Agreement and the Arbitration Act of Alberta.

If the parties resolve issues by consent, they may be entered into a Consent Arbitration Award. 

How long is the term of the Parenting Coordinator?

A two-year term is recommended to allow the parenting coordinator to understand the family and the issues that prevent a healthy co-parenting relationship. Neither party can unilaterally withdraw from parenting coordination during the term except for rare circumstances outlined in the Arbitration Act.

What are the benefits of Parenting Coordination over proceeding to Court or negotiating with lawyers?

  • Parenting coordinators are often able to offer immediate attention to problems which arise.  Proceeding to court usually takes significantly longer to obtain a resolution.
  • Parenting coordination is designed to be convenient and time-efficient for families. Much of the communication between the parenting coordinator and the parents is via email or telephone calls, as opposed to preparing and filing formal documents to the court or letters and/or meetings through legal counsel. Depending on the issue, the arbitration process is often tailored to be much less formal.
  • The parenting coordinator becomes familiar with the family and their challenges and history. Understanding the family results in better, tailored solutions to their issues. It is rare to have the same Judge or Justice hear a case more than once when proceeding through the court system.
  • It is typically much less costly to share the cost of a parenting coordinator as opposed to 2 lawyers and court costs. 
  • Most parenting coordinators have specialized training and a passion for mediation, arbitration, parenting coordination, interest-based dispute resolution and child psychology.
  • Parenting coordinators can work with 3rd parties who may have helpful information such as teachers, family and counsellors. 

Do I need a lawyer for Parenting Coordination?

No, it is not necessary to have a lawyer, however it is always helpful to have legal advice. 

Are the children involved in Parenting coordination?

If the parties consent to the Parenting Coordination Agreement, the parenting coordinator can speak to the children if necessary. Involving the children should always be done cautiously and only if the parenting coordinator has training in speaking/interviewing children. As another option, a parenting coordinator may arrange counselling for the children and consult with the children’s counsellor when necessary.

Does Kirk Montoute Dawson LLP offer Parenting Coordination?

Yes, Gary Kirk, Nigel Montoute, Wanda Dawson, and Stacey Haskins are experienced and trained mediators, arbitrators and parenting coordinators. Wanda Dawson also has specialized training in Speaking to Children and Parents through Dr. Lorri Yasenik and Jonathan Graham, LLB, (Sydney, Australia).

They truly want to support parents and families through difficult parenting challenges after separation or divorce and take every opportunity to develop and enhance their arbitration and mediation training and skills in this important area of practice.

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Calgary Parenting Coordinators

To speak with one of our experienced lawyers trained in Parenting Coordinators, call us toll free at 877-563-5295. In Calgary, call 403-233-9300 or contact us online to book an appointment.
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