ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION: MEDIATION VS. PARENTING COORDINATION

Mediation and Parenting Coordination are both forms of alternative dispute resolution processes that although they have overlapping goals they do however provide important but distinct services.

Mediation is a good method of resolving child issues such as parenting plans for the following reasons:

  • The parents can work out agreements between themselves.
  • You can tailor the agreement to your particular circumstances.
  • You will receive input from a neutral third-party regarding the type of plans helpful in your situation.
  • You can learn techniques for reaching agreements with each other which you can use over time in the future, with or without a mediator.
  • You can avoid the acrimony and financial cost of litigation.
  • Mediation separates the people from the problems.
  • Focuses on interests, not positions.
  • Creative problem-solving and provide multiple options for mutual gains.
  • Use objective standards to seek outcomes.

 

The parenting coordination process, is handled by an experienced and specially trained attorney or mental health professional uses skills learned over many years of education and experience to help parents:

  • Manage their emotions
  • Communicate more effectively
  • Understand the impact of conflict on children
  • Learn about children’s developmental needs
  • Negotiate appropriate post-divorce or separation boundaries
  • Develop a sensitivity to their children’s needs
  • Identify mutually agreeable parenting goals
  • Brainstorm options to meet goals
  • Address co-parenting issues in a non-adversarial setting
  • Evaluate options to reach agreements within legal guidelines
  •  Avoid the continued financial cost of legal fees and expenses of litigation

 

There are several alternative dispute resolution options. Each of these options will focus on respectful communication and understanding of the other parent’s interest. The goal is forward movement, it is not about trying to resolve why the parents have ended their intimate relationship but instead structuring your future relationship with each other.

Alternative dispute resolution options are not necessarily an “easy” option, the processes can be a lot of work and can be emotionally charged. These processes are not “let’s hold hands and sing Kumbaya” approaches. There is compromise on both sides. The parents don’t always walk away from the process “happy” but there is a general sense of satisfaction in how the process was handled. The parents also benefit by leaving with the tools necessary to resolve disputes that may arise in the future.  Finally, the parties are more likely to follow the parenting plan because it is a plan that they have worked out together, under their terms.

PARENTING COORDINATION

Parenting Coordination is a child-focused alternative dispute resolution process that combines assessment, education about communication and co-parenting, case management, conflict management, negotiation and, when necessary, decision-making functions. Parenting coordinators have extensive training, experience and qualifications for working with high-conflict situations related to separation or divorce.

Parenting coordinators are used in moderate to high-conflict families who have typically demonstrated a long-term inability or unwillingness to make parenting decisions together, on their own, to comply with parenting agreements and orders. Parenting coordinators can assist in reducing their child-related conflicts and to protect their children from the impact of such conflict. Conflicts that arise such as parenting schedules, exchange times and locations, extracurricular activities, education choices and medical decisions.

Parenting coordination is a better way of resolving parenting plan issues than returning to court. The parenting coordinator educates the parents about communication and co-parenting, child-development and harm to the children of hostility between parents.

The Parenting Coordinator will work with others involved with the family, including mental health experts, health care personnel, social services, education and legal professionals, as well as extended family, stepparents and the children. The Parenting Coordinator may make recommendations for outside services, such as counseling, that the Parenting Coordinator may determine are needed.

Parenting Coordination is a solution oriented process. It helps parents work together for the good of their children rather than fighting each other. Parenting Coordination provides an opportunity for parents to develop an ability parent their children in a healthy, constructive way rather than perpetuating a conflict that places their children in the parents’ war zone.

MEDIATION

Mediation is a sensible approach for couples planning to separate or divorce. Mediation may be used for many family law needs, including issues relating to child support, time-sharing/custody, equitable distribution and post-divorce issues, such as co-parenting and learning to get along in a blended family.  In the mediation process, couples meet with a trained mediator, who facilitates the voluntary agreements that the couple makes together.  During the process, the couples will address, discuss and resolve all the issues that will be written into their agreement.  Because the mediated setting is relaxed though structured, it allows couples to negotiate with each other in an atmosphere of dignity and respect.

The mediator has no particular power or authority with regard to the outcome. While a mediator may be influential or educational and help parents to better understand the needs of a child, the mediator has no say in the final agreement the parents achieve with regard to their parenting plan or issue of dispute. The mediator’s main role is to facilitate respectful dialogue and help parents determine common objectives for their children and help devise a mutually acceptable plan to achieve those objectives between the parents.

Alternative Dispute Resolution, either through mediation or parenting coordination, is not about winners and losers. It’s about helping couples reach agreements that are not only in their best interests but in the best interest of their children. In the end, parents choose these processes because of an interest to serve the well-being of their children over parental preferences. Separation and divorce do not have to be war, rather it can be focused on restructuring the family and create a new possibility for the future without acrimony.

CONTACT US:

Heidi M. Crimins of Crimins Conflict Solutions Firm, PLLC is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator and Florida Qualified Parenting Coordinator for the Seventh, Fifth and Eighteenth Judicial Circuits. Free Initial Consultation. Call: (386) 873-2756 or E-Mail: keepitcivilfamily@gmail.com