Going through a divorce is a major life transition. It necessitates a whole host of huge decisions from the who/when/where of parenting time to deciding where each spouse will live and how assets and debts can be divided in an equitable manner. Once the final papers are signed and the lawyers have gone home, the chapter on marriage is closed but the next chapter of life is just beginning. Now it is time to implement the plans we agreed to on paper and sometimes that can be more challenging than we expect.
“The chapter on marriage is closed but the next chapter of life is just beginning.”
The good news is that there are resources available to assist you as you are getting your post-divorce sea legs, so to speak. Parenting coordinators are specially trained professionals who work with parents to implement their parenting plan after the divorce is final. Parenting coordinators may be assigned by the court, particularly in highly contentious cases, or they may be hired independently by the parents.
Even the most detailed divorce decree cannot address every possible scenario parents will face going forward. Life is going to change. Kids get older, parents change jobs, schedules and activities change, new people come into our lives. As hard as we try, there is no crystal ball to predict every contingency. A parenting coordinator provides parents with a neutral third party who will help them work through conflict regarding their kids and their parenting plans. Issues that a parenting coordinator will assist with include schedule changes as kids get older, disagreements over extracurricular activities, parenting style disputes (i.e. bedtime, homework, discipline), disagreements over children’s expenses, general communication between parents, when or how to introduce new people (significant others), or other issues agreed upon by the parents or the court. The scope of the parenting coordinator’s work will be outlined in the contract or court order.
While a parenting coordinator is neutral like a mediator, there are a few differences. A parenting coordinator may be called to testify in court if the need arises. Their job is not to choose sides, but rather to focus is the best interest of the children and the family. They may also make the decision if parents are unable to find common ground, but this is a last resort.
The ultimate goal of parenting coordination is to assist the parents in improving communication and developing conflict resolution skills that will allow them to work together successfully moving forward. It is also an opportunity to rebuild trust. It can be difficult for parents to trust each other after a divorce, even an amicable divorce. Whatever behaviors or events lead to the breakup of the marriage do not suddenly go away because a decree was signed. The goal to start fresh and focus on the future is in the best interest of parents and kids but it is often easier said than done. One of the best things parents can do in that case is recognize the situation and get help to move forward. As we work on these new skills, it allows parents to focus on the best interests of their children, rather than their conflict and old wounds left over from the marriage or divorce.
It takes time for families to recalibrate to their new normal after a divorce. By recognizing this and taking advantage of the resources available, parents have the opportunity to not only help themselves, but to set an example of positive, proactive problem solving for their kids, as well.