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Parenting Coordination

What is parenting coordination?

Parenting coordination is a process used when parents continue to disagree about the court-ordered parenting plan. Parenting coordination can be helpful when parents have a history of filing many motions to modify because of continued problems. Instead of coming back to court to file more motions, the Parenting Coordinator works with the parents in an out-of-court process to resolve disputes quickly.

Specifically, parenting coordination

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Why is parenting coordination needed?

Some parents remain highly conflicted after their parents divorce or split up. Research shows that children suffer most when their parents’ conflict is played out through the children (i.e. messages sent through the children, parent questioning the child about other parent), or is focused on the children without getting resolved, and not the fact that there is a legal dispute in court. These children experience increased rates of:

A Parenting Coordinator works with high conflict parents to educate them about the negative impact of their conflict on the children. The Parenting Coordinator quickly addresses disputes with the parenting plan by first trying mediation and if the parents cannot agree, making a decision. Hopefully, the parents will move toward a parallel parenting model and reduce their conflict.

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When is a case eligible for parenting coordination?

The minimum criteria are that the case must have:

The Parenting Coordinator does not have authority to decide motions or change the custody ordered by the judge. Instead, Parenting Coordinators help parents resolve disputes about how to implement the parenting plan and hopefully avoid the need for a parent to file a motion.

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Who does parenting coordination?

A Parenting Coordinator (also called a "PC") is an impartial mental health or legal professional with specific training that includes:

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Is there an income limit for appointing a court-based parenting coordinator?

At this time there are 2 options for parenting coordination:

1. There is a free court-based parenting coordination program for parents who meet the income guidelines. Free court-based PC appointments are limited to cases where the parents have a combined gross income from all sources (including BAH, BAS, PFD, etc.) of less than $100,000. If a court-based PC is not available, there will not be a waiting list for services. If after appointment, the parents’ combined income increases above $100,000, the PC is obligated to notify the court to determine whether the court-appointed parenting coordination will continue.

2. There are also private parenting coordinators who charge the parents for their services. Parents should contact the proposed private PC to make sure he or she is available for the court appointment. The Family Law Self-Help Center maintains a list of private Parenting Coordinators who have the appropriate training.

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How long is a Parenting Coordinator appointment?

Ordinarily the PC’s appointment term will be up to 2 years.

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How does a case get a Parenting Coordinator?

If the judge thinks that a case would benefit from parenting coordination, he or she will discuss it with the parents. If the parents meet the guideline of having a combined gross income of $100,000 or less, they qualify for a free court-based Parenting Coordinator (PC). For a court-based PC, the judge will refer the case to the Family Law Self-Help Center to determine if a PC is available. Be aware that there are a limited number of court-based PCs so sometimes no one may be available to be appointed in a case. The judge will let you know if no PCs are available. Parents can always hire a private PC if they can afford the cost which is negotiated directly with the private PC.

If the parents make over $100,000 combined gross income or a free court-based PC is not available, the parents can hire a private PC. If the parents do not agree on which private PC to hire, the parents may suggest specific PCs for their case (make sure to contact the private PC first to make sure he or she is available and you understand what fees you will be paying), and let the judge decide who to appoint. You may file:

If the judge finds that the case meets the criteria to appoint a PC, the judge will issue an Order Appointing a Parenting Coordinator, setting out the specific areas that the PC has authority to make decisions to implement the parenting plan.

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How does a Parenting Coordinator make decisions?

The Parenting Coordinator (PC) decision-making process is quick and efficient. The PC first tries to mediate the dispute, helping the parents to communicate to see if they can problem-solve and reach an agreement. If they cannot agree, the PC will make a decision quickly. Typically, the process starts with an in-person meeting, to meet the parents, review the guidelines and begin to identify ongoing issues. For the court-based PC program, almost all contacts happen through email and occasionally by telephone. A private PC is more likely to hold in-person meetings, as requested by the parents or as needed. The PC keeps records of all contacts.

Many court-based PCs use a communication structure where either parent may send 1 email per week (absent an emergency) raising an issue and the other parent must respond within 3 days. The PC spends 1 week, by email or telephone, trying to mediate the conflict. If mediation is not successful, the PC has 1 more week to make a decision and communicate it to both parents by email. The emailed decision summarizes the PC’s reasons for the decision. Either parent may file an objection to their assigned Superior Court judge, attaching the PC’s written decision.

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How is parenting coordination different than the judge deciding the disputes?

Parenting coordination is different because the parents have the opportunity to resolve the disputes themselves with the help of the PC as a mediator. Also, if the parents cannot reach an agreement in mediation, the PC will make a decision much quicker than going through the traditional court process. This allows the parents and children to move on with their lives, especially when the dispute is time-sensitive.

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Will a Parenting Coordinator talk to the children?

The Order Appointing a Parenting Coordinator, SHC-1802 [Fill-In PDF], contains a section “Release of Confidential and Privileged Records and Information” that allows the PC to have contact with the children as necessary to make decisions. Sometimes the PC will talk to the children, depending on their age and the issues in dispute to understand who they are and to get their perspective. The PC may talk to the children privately without the parents present.

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Will a Parenting Coordinator talk to other people involved with the family?

The Order Appointing a Parenting Coordinator, SHC-1802 [Fill-In PDF], contains a section “Release of Confidential and Privileged Records and Information” that allows the PC to have contact with third parties and access to records and information as necessary to make decisions. In addition, the PC may require each parent to sign a release of information for the PC to be able to talk to different people involved with the family. Often the PC will talk with other people involved with the family, including therapists for the children and parents as well as medical providers and teachers. Each situation is different so it depends on the issues in the case and which providers are involved with the family.

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How does the Parenting Coordinator report a decision to the Superior Court judge?

The PC files a confidential report with the court every year that summarizes the PC’s contacts with the parties, issues addressed and pending, including agreements and decisions made, and any recommendations.

The Order Appointing Parenting Coordinator, SHC-1802 [Fill-In PDF], makes clear that the PC’s file is confidential and that the PC cannot be required to testify.

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Can either parent object to the Parenting Coordinator’s decision?

Either parent can object to a particular PC decision by filing an objection within 5 days. The Appointment Order states that the PC’s decision stands until the court orders otherwise. Either parent may file:

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Can the Parenting Coordinator request a hearing?

If the PC needs the judge’s assistance, the PC may request an immediate hearing.

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How does a PC finish a case?

It is possible that the case may no longer need a PC. For example, the parents do not need the services, a parent leaves Alaska or becomes unavailable. The PC may also resign at any time with 30 days’ written notice to the parents and assigned judge. Also, after the 2-year appointment term, the parenting coordination will end unless the judge determines it is appropriate to reappoint and the PC is available to continue with the case.

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Are there forms for parenting coordination?

Forms have been created for use by judges, parents and PCs:

Parenting Coordination Forms Form
   
Parent Form Names  
Proposal for Private Parenting Coordinator SHC-1810 Fill-In PDF | Word
Objection to Parenting Coordinator Decision SHC-1811 Fill-In PDF | Word
About the Parenting Coordination Process SHC-1812 Adobe Acrobat PDF logo
   
Parenting Coordinator Form Names  
Parenting Coordinator Entry of Appearance SHC-1820 Fill-In PDF | Word
Parenting Coordinator Request for Hearing SHC-1821 Fill-In PDF | Word
Parenting Coordinator Report to the Court SHC-1822 Fill-In PDF | Word
Parenting Coordinator Policies and Procedures SHC-1823 Adobe Acrobat PDF logo
Parent Intake Form SHC-1824 Fill-In PDF | Word
Parenting Coordinator Information Form and Qualifications SHC-1825 Fill-In PDF | Word

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What resources does a PC provide to parents?

Typically a PC will provide parents with:

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Rev. 27 December 2016
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