What is a Parenting Coordinator?

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Parenting coordinator

A Parenting Coordinator (or PCs as they are commonly referred to) is a relatively new concept to help families in high conflict divorces. PC’s are usually lawyers or mental health professionals. Their overall goal is to offer children of divorce the opportunity to grow up in a home free of conflict or being caught in between their parents. PC’s often act as a referee between the parents, who have difficulty solving their parenting issues.

The statutes and laws for PCs vary from state-to-state. Some states, like Alabama where I work, have no current statutes for PCs. So, it is important that the Court Order is clearly written as to what specific legal powers the PC holds. A PC will often take the place of the attorneys in helping the parents work out their conflict. Hiring a PC can save time, money, and emotional trauma on the family, instead of calling on the court to regularly act.

There are 3 very important things to remember about Parental Coordination:

1) It is a non-confidential, child-centered process for high-conflict parents

This is not therapy and, therefore, it is not confidential. Parenting Coordination has a lot of structure in place for the parent’s to follow. The PC regularly updates the attorneys and judge about their observations and feedback to the family.

2) This is a hybrid role performed by an impartial party

The AFCC (American Family of Conciliation Courts) has set up guidelines for PCs to help regulate their standards. However, the power of a PC can vary from state-to-state. So it is important that family law professionals are clear as to the power of the PC in their state. Often the ambiguity can occur in vague Court Orders. Therefore, it is important for judges to be clear as to what role they want the Parenting Coordinator to have with this family. Click here for a good resource for families and Parenting Coordinators.

3) Parenting Coordination cannot change the legal or physical custody of child/ren or offer a recommendation of custody

PCs have to be very careful about what power they do and do not have. A Custody Evaluator can only give a recommendation of custody. The PC can help mediate parenting issues that arise. Like pick ups/drop offs, how to introduce new relationships to the children, the use of social media between the parents, or financial support for the children.

As a Parenting Coordinator, I set up a lot of structure for my coparents to follow. We have agendas set at each joint meeting. We spend about 20 minutes going through a coparenting workbook to educate my coparents regarding how to handle all the emotional, financial, and parenting issues that arise in divorce. This is a pschoeducational piece I put in place with all of my coparents. Each coparent brings one parenting issue to each session to discuss. Compromises and agreements are made between the coparents on how to handle the parenting issue. I then monitor that the parents fulfill their agreements made with each other and comply with the recommendations of the Court. Additionally, I report back to the attorneys and Judge with my observations.

Below is a chart showing the power of Parenting Coordination:

  Authority over family Access to Family Therapy Skills
Judge Yes No No
Attorney No No No
Guardian Ad-Litem Some Yes Some
Counselor No Depends Yes
Parenting Coordinator Some Yes Yes*


*Assuming the Parenting Coordinator is a Counselor or Social Worker

PCs were created to help the backlogged family court system that often does not know how to handle parents that, for example, keep calling their attorneys when their coparent shows up an hour late to a visit. It may be time to get a PC involved when parents are spending too much time and money in court, and have your attorney’s number on speed dial.

Parenting Coordinators are taught to look at all the angles and make decisions based on the welfare of the children. For many families, a Parenting Coordinator can bring order to a very chaotic situation. When the parents can’t seem to figure out how to get along, the best money spent may be to hire a Parenting Coordinator to help them mediate their parenting issues.

If you need help mediating parenting issues with your coparent or need a Parenting Coordinator in Birmingham, AL email Sara at sara@sparrowcounsel.com for an appointment.


Sara Dungan, MEd, ALC, NCC, MFTA, Certified Parenting Coordinator, Divorce and Family Mediator (Domestic Violence Trained) has her private practice called Sparrow Counseling in Birmingham, AL. She specializes in Parenting Coordination, Co-Parenting Counseling and Divorce and Family Mediation.  Her passion is helping parents learn how to become successful coparents, so their children can thrive after their divorce.  Contact Sara at sara@sparrowcounsel.com.

Sara is an Associate Licensed Counselor (ALC) and an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist under the supervision of H. Hobart (Bart) Grooms, M. Div, MEd, LPC-S, LMFT-S, Supervising Counselor.