Starting Out as a Parenting Coordinator: Advice from a Rookie

A few years ago, shortly on the heels of completing my mediation training, I attended a session at a conference on – what was to me – a new and rather elusive concept: Parenting Coordination. 

Brimming with curiosity, I took my seat and subsequently took on a deluge of information from learned and energetic presenters; they were intelligent, empathetic, kind and inspirational.  But when the session came to a close I staggered out in disbelief that anyone could pursue such a career of conflict.  Over 25% of the presentation had been devoted to “the importance of self care”, with dire warnings of burnout and lawsuits. Small wonder I had not heard of this career previously – how could anyone promote it?

But something from that day stayed with me.  The presenters had exuded something, perhaps their unique skillset, or their magnetism, or perhaps their belief in and their commitment to the goodness the profession accomplished.  As my mediation career took shape, and conflict resolution became a daily professional endeavour, I increasingly appreciated the value of these practitioners and their commitment to minimizing conflict between parents after their “resolution”; after their mediation or their courtroom drama; after it was all supposed to be over.  Resolved.  After they had “moved on”.  Pain and anger can linger, power imbalances can persist and I witnessed judges acknowledge this by ordering parents to retain a parenting coordinator.

As my exposure to the profession increased, my “I could never do this” attitude ebbed and I felt the push to explore beyond mediating.  For me, parenting coordinating had gone from elusive to intriguing, and now to alluring. 

There was also apparently a demand for practitioners, the remuneration prospects reasonable and training was available.  I plunked down the money, learned a whole lot in a few days, and then plunked more money for the advanced course and learned a whole lot more.  The courses were stimulating and fun and a wonderful reminder of the value of being a “life long learner”.  There is always more to know, more to read, more we can listen to, and more ways to better ourselves. And then there’s pulling it all together and putting it into action. The PC courses set me up with knowledge and materials; I had precedents, we’d done role-plays. I had binders and USB sticks with resources.  But so far, what the PC training has done for me professionally is enhance my skills as a mediator.  I am still a step away.

FDRIO now offers a certification as a specialist in Parenting Coordination (FDRP PC) – a testament to the importance of this profession and an acknowledgement of its development – however, it is ambitious, with stringent requirements for supervised hours.  From what I gather, most of the certifications granted so far have been grandfathered to those with years of experience, rather than to those meeting the criteria.  There are no internships for parenting coordinators, and there is a scarcity of established practitioners willing or able to take on a trainee.  The very nature of parenting coordinating is incongruous with such training; aside from the issues of confidentiality and the lengthy duration of the PC contract, the dispute resolution process in PC is not conducive to training, with so much of it being conducted by email and telephone, and the PC-client relationship is very much a one-on-one. 

So how to start?  The naysayers are relentless, warning of how serious this work is: you can’t just do it, you don’t know what you’re doing, you don’t know how to arbitrate, you need more training.  Debating this conundrum in the inaugural FDRIO PC Section zoom meeting, one of the leaders of the meeting finally blurted out that the only method to starting is to jump right in.

And so that is what I am doing.  For now, I will rely on my mentors and colleagues whom I have met through mediating, for whom I have a deep respect, and of course, who also have a PC practice.  The PC world attracts generous and inclusive personalities and while these folks may not offer formal supervision, I am confident that they will answer my calls of distress.

Lindsay Kertland is a mediator and parenting coordinator in Toronto.

*Editor’s Note: FDRIO recognizes the challenges in structuring supervised experience for PCs in Training. As such, the ‘internship’ requirements for PCs are being revised to focus on supervision rather than formal internship. Thanks Lindsay for your feedback!!

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