What is Parenting Coordination you ask? While it is tempting to give a quick definition based upon the Florida legislative vision of what it is supposed to be, the vitriol which some writers have heaped upon it requires a more in-depth answer.
When I returned to law school in my early forties, I was not going to law school because I didn’t have anything to do at home. At the time, law school was one of the most highly competitive schools a young person could attempt and, it was a nearly impossible task for a change of lifer with a family, and a full set of grown up responsibilities. I went to law school to study Constitutional and Environmental law. I ended up practicing family, administrative and criminal law.
Family court is an interesting place to practice law. It is the place where the most important people in our lives, the very fabric of who we are, are affected by every decision, every action, and every failure to act. Kindness to your ex can be used against you and an agreement to modify the schedule for a special occasion may become a demand to modify it whenever and wherever it is demanded. It is a place where grandparents can become the enemy, and significant others give world wars an inferiority complex.
Parenting coordination in Florida was proposed several years before its eventual enactment. It was passed by the legislature, but vetoed by then Governor Jeb Bush. He believed the original concept granted too many powers to the parenting coordinator and not enough court supervision. The idea was modified several times, and there were many reports and committees working together to try to find a good balance for the parents, the children, the courts and the overall family structure while still protecting vital individual rights. It was signed into law by Governor Charlie Christ in 2009 and adopted by the Florida Supreme Court in 2010.
Florida Statutes: 61.125 states: “The purpose of parenting coordination is to provide a child-focused alternative dispute resolution process whereby a parenting coordinator assists the parents in creating or implementing a parenting plan by facilitating the resolution of disputes between the parents by providing education, making recommendations, and, with the prior approval of the parents and the court, making limited decisions within the scope of the court’s order of referral.” The statute clarifies that where there is a judgment or order in which a parenting plan has been established, that the parents can request, or the court can appoint, a parenting coordinator to assist the parents in resolving disputes concerning that parenting plan.
Okay…in English. If the court orders or adopts a parenting plan, and the parents can’t seem to work together to carry out that plan, the court can appoint a parenting coordinator to help them. The court gives the parenting coordinator the authority to use many different resources to help the parents. The key words here are “court orders or adopts a parenting plan.”
Parenting is a very hard job. Probably one of the hardest things we do in our lives. When there are two people working together to raise children, we have to face the challenges with a united front, or at least try. What happens when we can’t do that? What happens when we decide to split up and try to raise the children together…apart? What happens to the grandparents? Who takes the kids to school? Who goes home from work when the kids get sick? What happens when we meet someone else and they become involved with the children?
All of these questions can lead to stress and tension even in the most amicable breakup. No one starts off believing that they will fight for 18 years over each child. But, sadly, it happens. It happens to good people who mean well, and who are trying to do the best they can, taking care of the children they love. It happens to people who have been ordered by a court to do things with their children that they don’t want to do.
For years, the court system has tried to work with parents to fashion solutions that are in the best interest of the children. The court does the best it can with the information it is given. Unfortunately, that information is limited by time, the quality and/or presence of attorneys, and the individual sitting on the bench. Over the past 30 years mediation has gone far to assist parents and the courts in reaching more personalized solutions for individual families. For the majority of parents that system works.