It is not uncommon for professionals and parents to confuse the terms “co-parenting counseling” and “parenting coordination.” Using the correct “term” can make a world of difference in what the court may actually want, what the parents expect and what the professional appointed will be able to accomplish. In high-conflict divorces, especially those with allegations, it is very important to seek the correct services. When it is determined by the parents or the court that the parents need to improve their co-parenting relationship a costly error may occur if they use the wrong term.
Maybe the confusion is due to the fact that co-parent counseling and parenting coordination have some items in common. Both deal with “co-parents” and address similar goals, yet they are not interchangeable.
What is Co-Parent Counseling?
Co-parent counseling is simply a form of “counseling” with divorced or never married parents to help them improve their co-parenting relationship for the sake of their children.
What is Parenting Coordination?
Parenting coordination is a form of dispute resolution for high-conflict parents as a means of resolving parenting issues, increasing co-parent cooperation, and reducing stress for the child while encouraging parents to become less focused on “winning” and more focused on how their behavior may harm their children.
The role of the parenting coordinator (P.C.) includes the responsibility of:
- Monitoring the co-parenting relationship with the primary goal of minimizing unnecessary stress on the child/ren.
Most importantly, the service is non-confidential.
How is Co-Parenting Counseling and Parenting Coordination Similar?
The professional providing co-parenting counseling may address many of the very same goals as parenting coordination; however, their primary role is that of counselor which is limited in scope. The co-parent counselor typically meets with both parents together and teaches communication skills and even facilitates problem solving. Both services aim to help parents create an effective co-parenting relationship while teaching parents the skills to resolve their own disputes in the future.
How is Co-Parenting Different than Parenting Coordination?
The co-parent counselor is not as direct and cannot temporarily settle a dispute when time is of the essence. Furthermore, most co-parent counselors work within their normal business hours while parenting coordinators are typically available to assist parents after hours in the case of an urgent matter. The Co-parent role does not include the monitoring nor case management component typically included in the PC role.
The most important difference is that co-parent counseling is a form of “counseling” and therefore confidential while PC is a non-confidential process. As a result the co-parenting counselor is not in a position to monitor parental compliance with their court order because the privileged information has no feedback loop. They cannot, due to confidentiality, report any noncompliance nor share observations regarding allegations to the attorneys. They also cannot testify in court regarding the parents willingness to cooperate or on their parental behaviors.
Over time, the resistant high-conflict parent who is appointed a co-parent counselor realizes that they do not need to cooperate with the process of co-parent counseling. They recognize that they do not need to hide inappropriate comments or behaviors from the co-parent counselor since this professional will not be able to enlighten the court of their observations. It is not unusual for high-conflict parents to make their way to the appointment of a parenting coordinator after the courts have sent them unsuccessfully to a co-parent counselor.
This certainly does not mean that the co-parent counselor is neither well trained nor effective at what they do. It simply means that the co-parent counselor automatically has their hands tied and will have less ability to “hold parental feet to the fire” when working with a high-conflict case.
To learn when Co-Parenting Counseling may be appropriate, visit and read the complete article by Susan Boyan entitled, Apples or Oranges: What’s in a Name?
Widely known for her expertise in the area of divorce and the family, she provides training to educators, family law and mental health professionals, as well as “High-conflict divorce” and “Parenting Coordination”.She has trained parenting coordinators since 1997, and as a result, co-authored the first and only comprehensive model of parenting coordination. Respected in their field, Susan has conducted numerous seminars on the international, national, state and local levels on topics such as parental alienation and visitation refusal, interviewing children, therapeutic and supervised visitation and developmentally appropriate time-sharing plans.
She has been awarded clinical membership in the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and is a member of multiple organizations including the Academy of Professional Family Mediators, American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy.Mrs. Boyan maintains a private practice in Georgia.
Latest posts by Susan Boyan (see all)
- Seek and You Shall Find;Confirmation Bias with Divorce - July 1, 2015
- King Solomon’s Advice on Co-Parenting - June 3, 2015
- Part II. Different Paths to Seek a Divorce - May 21, 2015