FDRIO: What kinds of couples are good candidates for parenting coordination?

Michelle: couples who have shown some historical ability to make parenting decisions together, but as a result of the separation and divorce have had difficulty doing so – generally this is linked to conflict between the parents. While parenting coordination is designed for high conflict parents, there also has to be a genuine desire to resolve conflict and work with the parenting plan.  There are parents who utilize the parenting coordination process as a different forum to continue the conflict and even escalate it – those are the parents who are not appropriate for the process.

Parenting coordinators should be realistic about what the process can accomplish, as the process is truly determined by the nature of the parental relationship and their willingness or capacity to participate and cooperate with the goals.  

FDRIO: Do you do open or closed PC work, or both?

Michelle: I provide open parenting coordination. The reason for this is related to my belief that cases in which parents have agreed to use the services of a parenting coordinator should be closely followed to determine if litigation decreases and to identify if any marked decrease is attributable to the parenting coordination process or some other factor.  

The transparent nature of the process can provide the necessary incentive for parents to work within the process as there is judicial oversight and the ability for the parents to seek additional judicial support using the information from the PC process

FDRIO: FDRIO is advocating with the AG for parenting coordination legislation. How could this help your work and/or the families you serve?

Michelle: I think that Ontario should follow the model of creating parenting coordination legislation.  This step would institute protocols for parenting coordination appointments so that there is continuity in the scope of training and practice.  Ideally, the legislation could be the starting point of creating in-house parenting coordination, similar to mediation, so that the services are accessible to lower and middle income parents.  At present, the process is cost prohibitive. The government undertaking such an endeavour would offer parents another alternative to Court, which allows other cases needing judicial intervention to be prioritized, while the parenting coordination process addresses rising issues post-parenting plan.

FDRIO: What tips do you have for new PCs who are just entering the field?

Michelle: My tips for new parenting coordinators is to follow the process.  Ensure that you educate those who are referring to you, whether they are assessors, lawyers or other professionals.  This will help everyone start on the same page with the same expectations.  And really hone your mediation skills, as most issues can be decided upon by the parents, and all they need is a good facilitator to the discussion.

FDRIO: What do you love about being a PC?

Michelle: I love being able to help parents forward through a very challenging time.  It is an honour being able to walk beside people and potentially positively impact the lives of children by supporting their parents.

Michelle Hayes, Director of Successful Families Inc., offers custody and access assessments, mediation, reintegration therapy, voice of the child reports, parenting coordination, and therapeutic services for children and families impacted by divorce. She is a panelled member of the Office of the Children’s Lawyer and a consultant on high conflict custody disputes to child welfare agencies.

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